Despite an excellent debut, India.Arie still had much to prove with her second record. Several of her neo-soul compatriots, from D'Angelo to Erykah Badu to Macy Gray, had faltered with sophomore albums, and it appeared she may have already said everything she had to say on Acoustic Soul. That anticipation, and trepidation, is exactly what makes Voyage to India such a beautiful surprise; it's a record that easily equals her debut, boasting better vocal performances but also better songwriting and accompanying production. As on her debut, there is a marked balance of organic and artificial: an acoustic guitar paces many tracks, though the edges are shorn off for a digital feel; the beats are often sampled, but there are still plenty of handclaps and fingersnaps; and the arrangements are simple yet obviously very polished. The improvement in her songwriting is most obvious from the first three tracks (after the short intro). The themes driving "Little Things" (keeping it simple), "Talk to Her" (the importance of honesty, warmth, and communication in relationships), and "Slow Down" (taking life one day at a time) certainly have been covered already, many times even, but India.Arie writes with a fresh perspective that makes it sound as though she's the first to broach the topic. And, finally, her delivery is the best of any neo-soul vocalist, barring only the incomparable Jill Scott, alternately earnest and playful and sexy and questing. It all adds up to one of the most glowing comebacks of the year (if she ever left), an important record whose stamp -- the Motown logo -- isn't the only thing it has in similarity with a classic LP by Marvin Gaye or Stevie Wonder.
Voyage to India Review
by John Bush