Macy Gray, Earth Wind & Fire and Stevie Nicks, oh my!


by Malinda Lo

Macy Gray‘s first new album in four years is titled Big, and it’s clear from the first track, “Finally Made Me Happy,” featuring Natalie Cole, that Gray is trying to make a splash with her comeback. Does it work? I’m not entirely sure. Big is a good album, produced by (of the Black Eyed Peas) and Ron Fair (the Geffen chairman behind Mary J. Blige‘s The Breakthrough), but somehow it rarely seems to rise above background music.

One track that made me want to take a second listen is “Okay” (incidentally co-produced by Justin Timberlake, who also contributes some backing vocals), a sassy, beat-heavy tune about surviving a breakup. I also kinda liked “Ghetto Love,” but maybe that’s because the intro samples James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” One of the best songs on the album is the amusing “Treat Me Like Your Money,” where she sings: “Treat me like your money/Love me need me want me/Take me wherever you go/Worship me your whole life/Pray for me at night/Treat me better than anyone you know,” and follows that up with a sample from Dead or Alive’s ’80s hit “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record).” Listen to the entire CD for yourself at AOL.

(Click “read more” for Stevie Nicks twirling in lace.)

What do Chaka Khan, Angie Stone, Meshell Ndegeocello and others have in common? Besides being, well, totally awesome, they have all contributed songs to Interpretations: Celebrating the Music of Earth, Wind & Fire, a tribute album like none I have ever heard. Honestly, I haven’t been able to stop listening to this CD since I got it: It is that good. Maurice White, the legendary founder of Earth, Wind & Fire, hand picked the recording artists who covered the songs on this CD, which is, according to White, “the inaugural release for the newly reactivated Stax Records label … the legendary Memphis-based recording company that was home to soul royalty such as Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Isaac Hayes, Rufus & Carla Thomas, the Bar-Kays and Albert King in the ’60s and ’70s.” Damn, I just got chills.

So anyway, let’s move on to what is so great about this CD. First of all, Chaka Khan sings “Shining Star”! Then Angie Stone delivers a perfect, slow-grooving rendition of “Be Ever Wonderful.” And Kirk Franklin makes me remember that you can never be sad when listening to “September.” My favorite track on the CD is Ledisi‘s version of “Devotion,” which launches with a shiver-inducing, soaring vocal hook that just makes everything seem a little better. But I should stop gushing about it; just go listen to it for yourself.

And last but far from least, rock legend Stevie Nicks has just released a CD/DVD combination titled Crystal Visions: The Very Best of Stevie Nicks.

The CD contains 16 of Nicks’ unforgettable songs, including live versions of “Rhiannon” and “Landslide.” The real gem, though, is the DVD, which contains13 videos as well as Nicks’ own commentary on them.

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