Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Macy Gray's Latest

Macy Gray.  Covered.
429 Records, 2012.   Macy Gray:  http://www.macygray.com/

I find Macy Gray fascinating.  She is quirky, eclectic in taste and genre, ranging from R&B to rock, and one never knows which way she’s going to move next.  I have heard her compared to Billie Holiday in vocal style, and it’s easy to hear that in both timbre and delivery.  Growing up in Canton as Natalie McIntyre and attending Western Reserve Academy (and later the University of Southern California), she had a family before having a music career, and her maturity and sophistication are on display in full force with her sixth studio album.
Covered is mostly, well, covers.  She pulls songs from the Eurythmics, My Chemical Romance, Arcade Fire, Kanye West, and other artists, mixing styles with abandon, and changing the originals to suit herself.  She largely succeeds in this project, and brings some remarkably strong vocals on “Sail,” “Here Comes the Rain Again,” and “Wake Up.”  My favorites may not be someone else’s, and I prefer the rock to the rap, but there’s plenty to choose from.  She even gets her kids involved on a couple of tracks, with her son, Mel Hinds, taking the lead vocals on “Mel Rap.”  In fact, she gets all kinds of help, not only from her regular band, the Sex Fiends, but from a whole batch of background vocalists and percussionists.  They lend power and breadth to the tracks, but never get in the way.
For me, the least successful parts of the album are the short comedy bits, interspersed among the songs, which may please some people and annoy others to no end.  The first time through, they are pretty funny, with people giving her advice about her performance or introducing her, but after that, they just get in the way of the music.  Fortunately, one can skip them or program them out.  The songs are the strength here, and Gray’s voice is the key.

Personnel:  Macy Gray (vocals); the Sex Fiends: Martin Estrada (guitars); Ronald “RJ” Kelly (drums); Mike Torres (bass); Zoux (keys and synths, organ, Rhodes, Wurlitzer, programming); and lots of assisting musicians and background vocalists.
Tracks:  Here Comes the Rain Again, Creep, You Want Them Nervous, Smoke Two Joints, La La La (Teaching the Kids), Teenagers, The Power of Love, Nothing Else Matters, Sail, I Try is Cool and All, but..., Maps, Lovelockdown/Buck, Mel Rapp, Bubbly, Wake Up, Really?


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