I still remember the first time I heard Macy Gray’s “I Try”. I was flicking through channels on TV. Her throaty, scratchy tenor immediately caught my attention. I have been hooked ever since. Now, she’s back with the follow up to her last studio album, The Way (released in October of 2014). However, her new album Stripped is a far cry from her past releases. This time, she’s taking her sound back to her roots: jazz. Macy Gray credits jazz music as her first love. She originally sang jazz music to break into the music industry. Stripped is a reworking of a few of her biggest hits, a couple of covers and some new tracks as well.
Macy Gray has dodged conformity from day one. At this point, she really doesn’t have anything to prove. I must admit, I did not see jazz music in her future though. Unlike her previous work, Stripped was recorded with a live band and one microphone. This album was not mixed. The recordings were taken from their pure essence. She’s even donning a sexier, sleeker image on the album cover. Don’t mistake it though. This is bare bones Macy Gray at her brightest. “Annabelle”, one of the new tracks on Stripped, chronicles the tug of war of addiction. She wants to get rid of her addiction for good, but she also can’t stand to part with it. Expect this one to be a fan favorite on the album.
Her classics get an innovative revamping as well. “Sweet Baby” is an fast paces, zydeco sounding celebration. “I Try” has lighter musical undertones, which send Gray’s voice to the forefront of the track. She sounds comfortable and confident here, with no boundaries. “The Heart”, one of the three new tracks on the album, finds Macy Gray pining away for an old flame. She goes through the list of things that could have driven her lover away, including her Grace Jones album collection. Songs like “First Time” and “Slowly” are lesser known selections for her. Nonetheless, they fit perfectly on this album. “She Ain’t Right For You”, one of my all-time favorites of hers, is completely flipped with a delectable reggae tinged melody. Speaking of reggae, she delivers a rousing cover of Bob Marley’s classic “Redemption Song”. She also serves up a clever remake of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters”.
New songs like “Annabelle” introduce us to a new, intriguing side of Macy Gray. “Lucy” (which closes out Stripped) leaves us salivating for more. This song is so great, that I forgive her for not including her early hit, “Still” on this set. She coos seductively here, with suggestive and comical lyrics (I’m ready to give you my Lucy/Rhymes with…). Macy Gray should decide to strip more often.