Review of the new album "Home"

Welcome Home, Sinead -- you are back to your best

It's been four years and five months since she took her music away. But 'Nothing Compares 2 U' singer Sinead O'Connor returns with what could be one of the best albums of her career in early summer.

Although not out till June, The Diary got an advance copy of the new album from Sinead this week and it hasn't been off our iPod since.

Home is a startling return to form for the singer.

Unlike 2002's traditional Sean-Nós Nua album, 2005's reggae record Throw Down Your Arms, or Theology, her last album in 2007 which tackled spirituality, Sinead's new record goes right back to the straightforward music which turned her into a global superstar during the '80s and '90s.

"It's different from the last few records which had a theme around them. This is just a collection of pop songs," Sinead told me this week.

But what a collection. Firstly there's the cover versions: There's a take of '60s singer Tim Buckley's 'Song To The Siren', that stands up even to the Cocteau Twins. There's one of 'Queen Of Denmark' by US singer John Grant, whose debut album of the same name was voted Mojo Magazine's 2010 Record Of The Year. And another by local troubadour Damien Dempsey, 'Factories'.

However, it's the original material which will enthrall listeners.

Some will interpret album opener '4th & Vine' as a love song to Australian musician Steve Cooney whom she married last year, along with 'Old Lady' and 'Come Down With Me'.

The polar opposite is 'Reason With Me' which has Sinead singing from the point of view of a junkie who pulls "the odd highjack" with "a hyperdermic in my backpack".

She explained: "I've had lots of friends who were heroin addicts in the past, who did all sorts of extreme things and had mixed feelings afterwards."

Stand out track 'Who is The Real VIP' has Sinead ridiculing shallow celebrity to warn about a time to come when "there'll be no make-up and no film crew. No Vuitton bags and no Manolo shoes."

But the best thing about Home is Sinead's voice, which has never sounded better.

You can understand why, when brother, best-selling novelist Joseph O'Connor recently heard Home, he volunteered to write the sleevenotes, a 1,000-word essay in praise of his sister whom he calls "a flesh 'n'-blood woman, who made her mistakes, and couldn't suffer fakes".

"Joe suggested the title too. I didn't have a name for it so when Joe said Home. I thought "brilliant, that's it'," she told me.

Home is far better than any Prince cover.

Nothing Compares 2 U Sinead.

(c) 2011