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Non-Prog CD Reviews

India Arie

Acoustic Soul

Review by Gary Hill

With Acoustic Soul, India Arie has released a very strong debut. She shows that she has a great gift for song writing and musical and vocal performance. There are some flaws to the album, though, but that is to be expected from any first outing. For one thing, the entire album seems to suffer from being a little under-volumed. It just doesn't seem to be mixed as loudly as a lot of other discs out there. Also, parts of the album seem to drag a bit. Certainly both of those issues will be items that will come with Arie's maturing as an artist. It is not often that this much talent is shown on a first release, really. Plus, as the track by track review will point out, you really have to give the lady credit for giving her influences (both personal and musical) their due on this release.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Intro
This brief acoustic bluesy cut is just sort of Arie's tribute to some of her influence who are not with us anymore.
Video
This bouncy number is a lot of fun and features both a great vocal arrangement and cool instrumental flourishes.
Promises
This one is another with a great fun groove to it. The arrangement is not as complicated as the previous piece, but Arie really puts in a smoking vocal performance here and the percussion is quite interesting.
Brown Skin
Another that has a more layered vocal arrangement, this cut has both modern and retro R & B textures.
Strength, Courage and Wisdom
Beginning with percussion, this mid-tempo number is fairly jazz-oriented. It has a great groove and some definite energy. This is one of the standout cuts on the album.
Nature
Starting with just acoustic guitar and vocals, this cut is a little slower in tempo and not as strong as some of the other material here.
Back to the Middle
This piece is based in a very tasty groove. Arie's vocal performance is especially soulful here.
Ready For Love
"Ready For Love" is a beautiful and intricate ballad that is another high point of the disc. The music conveys so much emotion, and the track has an almost classical texture. This one is definitely awesome.
Interlude
This is a similar piece to the opening number, with Arie calling out to some other musical heroes of past days.
Always in My Head
Built on a great groove, this one gets quite lush in the later segments of the piece. The only complaint is that it drags a bit towards the end without evolving enough to hold the interest.
I See God In You
This is a good, but not exceptional cut with a fairly mechanical sounding percussive texture.
Simple
This one is a bit on the ordinary side, but the vocal arrangement pulls it out of mediocrity. The funky break is another selling point for the piece.
Part of My Life
This has a more mainstream, somewhat retro R & B texture to it. It has some interesting moods to it and is definitely one of the strongest tracks on the disc.
Beautiful
More folky in nature, this is a very organic and pretty sounding ballad.
Outro
This is the third part of the trilogy begun by "Intro" and continued with "Interlude". Here Arie is paying homage to her relatives who have gone before her.
Wonderful (Stevie Wonder Dedication)
This bonus track starts with a jazzy introduction, but quickly switches gear. Miss Arie pays a solid tribute to Mr. Wonder by emulating his sound a bit and simply singing out her praise for how much he has inspired her. This is a great jam and a worthwhile inclusion.
 
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