On the Way to Love
Today's pop divas could learn more than a few valuable lessons on the care and presentation of a powerful voice from Patti Austin, whose On the Way to Love offers warmth and humanity to accompany the vocal acrobatics. Austin's pipes are in fine form for this, her 15th career album, whether she's serving up Arethaesque soul attitude as a strong woman who won't put up with her cheatin' man ("I'm out the door, baby," she spouts on "Playin' Around") or crooning awe-struck at the glories of love ("I didn't exist until now," she exclaims through a pretty string-swirled pool on "What Can I Say?"). Enhancing her natural vocal talents here are some fine arrangements. The acoustic, rubberband texture of "Girlfriend," for example, gives the singer jump-off points for bright, bubbly vocalese-type lines as she tells a sweet tale of lifelong friends. "On the Way to Love" is arranged as a classy, broad R&B piece, with a majestic, near-gospel pace-perfect for Austin's bluesy yet optimistic take on the traumas and rewards associated with a deep relationship. At the core of all this is Austin's dead-on ability to emotionally interpret lyrics and music. This quality, which often brings an economical, understated approach-saving the blasts for appropriate highs-is what keeps Austin's work instantly appealing and truly inspirational.