July 21, 2003 12:00 PM

Macy Gray (Epic)

The trouble with being Macy Gray is that, when your voice is equal parts Billie Holiday and Daffy Duck, some listeners will have difficulty taking you seriously. But on her third CD, Gray again shows why she is one of pop’s true originals, with lyrics that can be as freaky as her delivery. On the groovy funk workout “My Fondest Childhood Memories,” she takes on the persona of a girl who kills the babysitter and the plumber for sleeping with her father and mother, respectively. “My parents are still happily married thanks to me,” she sings gleefully. Musically, Gray adds quirky touches like kids’ choirs, opera background vocals and Cab Calloway-style scatting to these ’60s soul arrangements, but the results are mixed. She’s most affecting when she curbs the kookiness on tracks like “She Ain’t Right for You,” a bluesy ballad in the vein of her smash “I Try.”

BOTTOM LINE: Wacky but worthy

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