[HOT TRACK]Probing the Psyche of Soul

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[HOT TRACK]Probing the Psyche of Soul

An explosive and high-pitched voice like Whitney Houston's can make a great singer, as can a powerful but lilting voice like Mariah Carey's. But sometimes you just need something a little less easy to classify than that. And now here comes the second album of Macy Gray, 29, a soul songstress with a sticky, groovy and charismatic voice reminding you of Billie Holiday or Tina Turner.

Although she was teased as a child for her raspy voice, she has parlayed her style and singing je ne sais quoi into one of the most exciting new sounds in soul music.

Her debut in 1999, the platinum-selling "On How Life Is," quickly earned her the label of a "neo soul" singer. Now, with her second album "The Id," which is set for worldwide release Tuesday, she is ready to talk more about her identity.

The dictionary defines the id as the aspect of the psyche that is the source of instinctual impulses and demands for satisfaction. Gray herself calls the id "what you do before you think, the real you, unedited."

Born in Ohio as Natalie McIntyre, Gray seemed to experiment randomly on her debut album with various kinds of musical styles - soul, punk, rock, pop and hip-hop. But this time out, she sounds more settled and organized, knowing what and how to sing.

Gray wrote the lyrics for 11 of the 12 tracks on the "The Id," and the album packs all the right sounds to make listeners feel excited, elated and rocked. The third track, "Sexual Revolution" starts with a slow, rhythmic sound, with Gray singing "It's time to be free amongst yourselves." Then a solo violin joins in, leading up to the more orchestrated sounds featuring exhilarating and upbeat rhythms.

Track seven's title threatens, "Gimme Me All Your Love or I Will Kill You," but the song turns out to be warm and moving.

A few cuts later you encounter the most recommendable track, "Freak Like Me," in which Gray's husky voice comes together in an optimal blend of melody and groove. Just after that song's sublime groove fades away, the 11th track, "Oblivion," is waiting to stir the listener with Gray's extraordinary and original take on soul music from the '50s and '60s.

Barring the dips from a few mediocre songs, "The Id" is one of the only albums released this year that lifts you to ecstatic heights and keeps you aloft from the first track to the last.

by Chun Su-jin

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