Gospel Oak's first track, "This Is to Mother You," amounts to both a repentant self-explanation and an earnest, melodic lead into one of Sinéad O'Connor's best recordings. The humble, yet still defiant O'Connor doesn't bury her convictions on this 1997 EP as much as she employs empathy to explain herself and try to reinforce her tattered bonds with friends, fans, and with herself. During her early '90s post-coming-out, tossing so much political, sexual, and religious taboos into the sun and fermenting the flesh of the sanctimonious proved to be a dangerous exercise that heavily taxed all parties involved. The increasingly corporate information state, and the media tools and junkies, all had their histrionic fill. So like tired lovers, sick of each other's breathing, a contemptuous fracture ensued, resulting in O'Connor's withdrawal from the scrutiny and abuse that plagued her. Returning with Gospel Oak -- its gentle, organic instrumentation setting a quiet stage for silky, subtly challenging vocals -- the singer executed her cautious public re-entry with precision and grace. On this six-track release, O'Connor isn't interested in complaints or accusations, but instead, she yearns to make real a universal personal respect, and perhaps forgiveness for her myriad of abstract or even imagined betrayals. These are the statements of a repressed, discounted martyr, and there is not a woman more qualified to recite them.
AllMusic Review by Vincent Jeffries