The Awakening is the third album by English singer, songwriter and guitarist James Morrison, it was released on 26 September 2011. "I Won't Let You Go" was the first single released from the album in the United Kingdom. The album was certified Gold in the United Kingdom just two weeks after release. The album has been certified platinum in the UK for sales over 500,000 copies and has sold 1,000,000 copies of this album worldwide.
The Awakening is the first album by Morrison to be released with Island Records after he recently parted ways with Polydor, his label of six years. Three years in the making, the album is influenced by the death of his father, as well as Morrison’s own steps into parenthood. It also sees him form a new creative relationship with producer Bernard Butler, who has further advanced Morrison's foray into a classic but contemporary soul sound. "I don’t want to put across that, yeah, the album is about my dad, losing my dad; some of it is but the other half is this sense of being woken up to what I wanted to achieve," he said in the interview by Music Week. Meanwhile, speaking of the title itself, he told Blues & Soul: "I basically just wanted it to feel like a first album, in the sense of me having woken up as an artist and person – you know, I wanted to forget that Broken Strings kind of pop side of me a little bit. And so, with me having actually written a SONG called 'The Awakening', that title also just kind of neatly fitted the album TOO."
"To me the album is positive. Even the songs about my dad are positive. I didn't want to write songs that were downer songs but I wanted to capture that fucking deep ache that I had from losing my dad because that was the most powerful emotion I've ever felt – apart from having a kid, which is harder to write about because it's happiness..."
Bernard Butler has produced 10 tracks on the album, with Mark Taylor helming the remaining two. Taylor was behind Morrison's "Broken Strings" (his biggest hit single to date). Taylor's tracks were the first two singles from the new album: "I Won't Let You Go" and "Slave to the Music". Co-writers include long-term collaborators Martin Brammer and Steve Robson, who have worked with Morrison since his debut, as well as Dan Wilson and Toby Gad. English singer-songwriter Jessie J is featured on the track "Up".
Mike Diver wrote for BBC Music that "The Awakening is lacking the grandstanding moment it needs to elevate it above reserved recommendation." Diver also noted that "Morrison has a truly great album in him – he's the emotional baggage to craft it, should he let locked-away demons loose – but for the third time in a row, this isn't it." Jon O'Brien wrote for Allmusic that "With several songs relating to his alcoholic father's death on his third effort, The Awakening, the husky-voiced guitarist appears to have rectified one of his issues, but despite the presence of Suede's Bernard Butler as producer, it's difficult to hear how he's made any attempt to deal with the other." O'Brien perceived that "lyrically, he's never been better, but until Morrison manages to infuse some of this raw honesty and emotion into his sound, he's always going to struggle to create that one great record that his impassioned and soulful voice deserves." Andy Gill wrote a negative review for The Independent, stating that "It's as if he's learnt the technical grammar and inflective vocabulary of soul-style singing, but isn't able to make it into a coherent language that actually unlocks the emotions." Ally Carnawalth wrote a mixed review for The Observer, stating that "Strings and expensive-sounding gloss are applied by producer Bernard Butler but unfortunately it's Duffy-era Butler, rather than the sweeping soul of his mid-90s David McAlmont collaborations." Fiona Shepherd wrote for The Scotsman that "The Awakening follows mildly in the throwback direction of Aloe Blacc, paying tribute initially to the classic string-soaked strains of Marvin Gaye but bottling it and blanding out as the album veers towards the middle-of-the-daytime-radio road. The soft-focus pop soul duet with Jessie J is simply a repeat run of his collaboration with Nelly Furtado, right down to the lack of chemistry between the two singers. Meanwhile, producer Bernard Butler is content to keep things slick, smooth, safe and sellable." Pip Elwood wrote a very positive review from Entertainment Focus, writing that "The Awakening will be one the of the biggest-selling albums of 2011 and we suspect it'll match the success of his previous two albums. Morrison is in a niche of his own and appeals to a wide audience. His voice is incredible, his songs emotive and his music timeless. Whilst everyone else is busy jumping on a bandwagon James Morrison is happy to just be himself and for that we commend him."