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Austin returns to soul/R&B roots on new CD

Austin returns to soul/R&B roots on new CD

Patti Austin, "Sound Advice" (Shanachie)

June 2nd, 2011 by CHARLES J. GANS, Associated Press in News

Patti Austin has spent much of the past decade successfully recasting herself as a jazz singer, winning her first-ever Grammy for her 2007 CD, "Avant Gershwin." But her new CD, "Sound Advice" - mostly covers of tunes by Bob Dylan, Brenda Russell, the Jacksons and others - finds Austin returning to her soul, R&B and pop roots with an assist from producer-arranger Greg Phillinganes (Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Toto).

Austin is at her best on her gospel-inspired take on Des'ree's "You Gotta Be" that builds to a rousing call-and-response with the Fire Choir. She rocks out and adds some soul to the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want," engaging in spirited interplay with her backup vocalists, and on Bill Withers' "Lean on Me," she starts softly and ends with a soaring climax. The 62-year-old singer's still powerful vocals stand out even though some of the song choices are less inspiring - Paul McCartney's "Let "Em In" and Depeche Mode's ethereal "Enjoy the Silence."

Austin shows a more intimate, restrained side on several acoustic "unplugged" arrangements on which she's accompanied by pianist Shelly Berg, including a touching rendition of Don McLean's "Vincent" and an understated, reflective "My Way" without the Frank Sinatra swagger.

CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: Amid the covers, Austin's original gospel anthem, "By the Grace of God," adopted as a musical theme by The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, features a sparse arrangement with Berg's piano and a background choir that highlights her inspiring vocals sung with heartfelt conviction.