January 27, 2003 12:00 PM

Vivian Green (Columbia)

Album of the week

[STARS 1]

Neosoul newcomer Vivian Green is the missing link between Alicia Keys and Jill Scott. Possessing the retro R&B stylings of Keys and the jazzy, poetic sensibility of Scott (a fellow Philadelphian for whom she once sang backup), Green delivers a compelling Story of her own on her debut disc. Loosely a concept album about a past romance, the elegantly crafted CD reveals a maturity well beyond Green’s 23 years. Such true-to-life tracks as the moving ballad (and first single) “Emotional Rollercoaster” will strike a chord with anyone who has ever endured the ups and, especially, the downs of love: “Loving you ain’t nothing healthy/ Loving you was never good for me/ But I can’t get off/ This emotional roller coaster.” Even better is when Green sings the blues on the throwback torch song “No Sittin’ by the Phone,” which provides a perfect showcase for her nuanced, never-oversung vocals.

Elsewhere Green, who wrote most of the lyrics, is feeling more upbeat on tunes like the breezy, jazz-kissed “Ain’t Nothing but Love” and the sexy old-school slow jam “Complete.” Throughout, she keeps the focus squarely on herself instead of distracting the listener with bells and whistles. How refreshing to hear an R&B record without any guest rappers or trendy, gimmicky production. This is a classy album by a class new act.

BOTTOM LINE: Green pastures

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