When Macy Gray was a child, chances are she heard The 5th Dimension’s Stoned Soul Picnic blaring from a stereo on a summer afternoon.
The 5th Dimension’s song didn’t deliver on its promise but Gray sure did on her eighth album, The Way.
The husky voiced soul singer/songwriter stakes a claim as the undisputed queen of the blissed-out soul slacker divas. In fact, she probably invented the position.
The Way isn’t a dynamic album but Gray’s well deserved reputation as a vocal personality floats the album’s slow drifting boat.
The songs float by in a comfortable haze until Gray gets ambitious with a melodic Earth, Wind and Fire type disco track, Hands. The song’s melodic appeal is upbeat enough for a single but it lacks the album’s lazy charm.
Gray purrs her way along unhurriedly and after awhile she gets her point across. There’s no big moments and certainly no drama. A big smiley face should be stuck on the CD cover but that’s not to say The Way doesn’t have momentum.
The songs have a slow burn that moves like molasses: the most medicated tracks start the record (the self explanatory Stoned and Bang Bang) and move through classy R&B (First Time) to ramp up with a sophisticated party song, Need You Now.
There’s no flash or brilliance here and the songs are set low but Gray’s performance and the dusky sound of the spare production have an appeal that lies in wait.
– Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who reviews new releases for The Morning Star every Friday.