Randy Crawford

Permanent

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Crawford is most renowned in Europe, where she is enjoyed by mature adult audiences. She's marketed in the U.S. as a jazz singer, but judging from this stellar collection -- which features not one filler song -- she could fake her ID and ride high on the R&B charts alongside the younger crowd. Her voice can be sweet and airy, as on the dramatic, orchestrally punched opening track, but she digs deeper on more emotional statements like "Free the Child." "Permanent" is a funky power ballad in the classic R&B tradition, while "Sweetest Thing" rides along a soaring string section and percussive near-disco groove. "When the Evening Comes" and "All I Do" do the disco thing very impressively, but with a class reminiscent of Lisa Stansfield. "Fire and Rain" isn't the James Taylor song, but actually has a hook that would seduce even the most cynical teenybopper. Crawford shows her range on power ballads like "Tell It to Your Heart" and an acoustic, jazzy cover of "Alfie." A welcome return from an artist whose reach should be much more in the mainstream of pop and R&B.

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