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Picks and Pans Review: Voyage to India

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India.Arie (Motown)

Blending bluesy folk and retro-’70s R&B on Acoustic Soul, her 2001 debut that received seven Grammy nominations earlier this year, India.Arie cultivated a sound where Tracy Chapman met Roberta Flack. And although not as refreshingly original as its predecessor, Voyage should easily save Arie from being a one-hit-album wonder. The singer-songwriter continues to worship at the neosoul altars of Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway on songs such as “Beautiful Surprise,” one of several lovely acoustic-guitar ballads. Arie also maintains the positive, self-affirming lyrics that marked her breakthrough single “Video” and much else of her debut, although the results here are sometimes trite: “What matters most is what you think of yourself,” she sings on “Get It Together.”

In the wake of her newfound fame, Arie, in her husky alto, reminds herself to “Slow Down” on one breezy ditty and take time out to appreciate the “Little Things” on another. The latter tune, which features a subtle interpolation from Rufus and Chaka Khan’s 1977 hit “Hollywood,” shows Arie moving away from her signature acoustic soul and toward a smooth pop-jazz vibe that would do Sade proud.

Bottom Line: A Voyage worth taking