Macy Gray – Stripped

Macy Gray "Stripped"You might as well call Macy Gray‘s new album “The Real Macy” – it is simply her best yet because of three simple things: the studio technique, the master musicians, and of course her exceptional voice, too. The recording, her first for the audiophile Chesky label, was done with just one mic and it features Russell Malone on guitar, Wallace Roney on trumpet, Daryl Johns on bass, and Ari Hoenig on drums (yes, no piano), all of them ace jazz players who are cushioning Macy’s sensual voice with just about the right elements.

Macy has re-recorded her hit “I Try” from her debut album “On How Life Is” (1999 can you believe?) and it sounds much more intriguing without all the layers of key and drum sounds. Her voice is upfront and personal – it is almost a totally different song. And it all suits her so well. Most of the new tracks are originals, too, like the opening bluesy swayer “Annabelle” which features the guys in the band on sexy backup vocals as well.

Wallace Roney has some very cute and expert solos, like on “Slowly”, which she recorded for her 2007 album “Big”. There is more of those great, moody and sensuous, yet very balanced Wallace soloing, like on “Nothing Else Matters” and yes, the sound is exceptionally great throughout with every instrument clearly positioned and, also, audible.

I’m not a big fan of Bob Marley‘s “Redemption Song”, but Macy masters it with grace and style as well. The two highlights for me are a couple of her newer tracks, both extremely haunting, vulnerable, exciting, and mesmerizing: the beautiful ballad “First Time” (which she recorded for her 2014 album “The Way”) and the album closer “Lucy” which features an irresistible guitar line by Russell and striking bass and trumpet work. It is a masterpiece, indeed. As is most of this surprisingly entertaining album.

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