Album Review: Macy Gray – Talking Book
American R&B superstar Macy Gray seems to be churning out records rather frequently these days. Having released her last album a mere 6 months ago the raspy voiced singer is back with another record and although it seems like the singer is fixated on releasing cover records these days, this time it is covers collection with a twist. Talking Book is the stars new record which sees Macy Gray revisiting one of Stevie Wonders most iconic releases as she pays homage to the music veteran by recording the entire album track for track.
Macy Gray first came to prominence way back in the last nineties with her enormous number one hit I Try. From there the release of her debut album On How Life Is garnished the singer with a string of follow up hits including Still and Why Didn’t You Call Me, all helping the R&B songbird, famed for her unique vocals, hit the top spot around the world. Those attributes also helped see On How Life Is rack up sales of an impressive 7 million units and award the singer with a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for I Try.
After the release of On How Life Is Macy Gray’s career seemed to dip. She maintained moderate success with the release of The Id, Gray’s 2001 sophomore release, but seemed to fall off the radar following that and though she released two albums in the mid 2000’s (2003’s The Trouble With Being Myself and 2007’s Big), both releases seemed stricken by lackluster performances in the charts. A series of acting roles in films like Training Day, Spiderman and the Tyler Perry hit, For Coloured Girls kept Gray busy throughout the late 2000’s and the singer returned to the recording studio in 2010 to record her 5th studio album, The Sellout which saw the star back to form with singles like Beauty in the World, Lately and the incredible Velvet Revolver collaboration, ‘Kissed It’.
With the release of Covered back in March we were taken on a journey through the world of Macy reinvention with a track listing brimming with eccentric covers as well as a number of quirky interludes.
Whether Macy Gray has hit writers block or simply prefers to take time out of writing her own material, Talking Book is a project unlike any other for this musician and an endeavor that I am sure will raise a few eyebrows.
Throughout the new record Macy offers us her own version of some of Stevie Wonders most iconic hits. Tracks like Superstition and You Are The Sunshine Of My Life are given a modern makeover and sound perfectly suited to Grays distinctive, bass heavy tones.
You and I (Can Conquer The World) sounds almost like it should have been written for Gray and the recording really shines on Covered. It’s beautiful production and the syrupy harmonies that are dotted throughout the track make this one a prominent feature on the record.
Blame It On The Sun is a swaying ballad with Macy singing overtop a sentimentally rich and musically nostalgic instrumentation.
Looking For Another Pure Love maintains the originals distinctive Motown eminence and one of the records most engaging guitar riffs while the melody encourages Grays vocal flexibility to standout with its staircase structure and demanding melody.
Though some may criticize Gray for taking on such a juggernaut soul record and rerecording it, it has to be said that doing so takes some guts but I believe she has pulled it off with Talking Book. She doesn’t force too much alteration on any of the numbers on the record and has clearly taken a sensitive approach to the recording of one of Wonders most treasured legacies.
Macy describes Talking Book as a love letter to Stevie Wonder rather than it being a tribute or concert style recording. What better way to pay homage to your idol than to record one if their biggest studio accomplishments and to do it so well as Macy has here.