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05/31/12

Carmen Lundy
Changes
Afrasia

The voice is as glorious as ever, and the interpretive skills, particularly on an “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” (the album’s sole cover) as delicate as cherub wings, remain impeccable. But this time around, Carmen Lundy the songwriter doesn’t always reach the same lofty plateaus as Lundy the singer. Among the eight originals that fill out Changes, several are extremely good. Lundy’s opener, the dark, mysterious “The Night Is Young,” is invitingly seductive. “So Beautiful” skillfully explores the deep passion of true soul mates. “Dance the Dance” is a lovely ode to self-expression. And “Love Thy Neighbor” goes beyond “Move On,” the rousing condemnation of racial intolerance that Lundy penned for her previous album, Solamente, widening her prayer for egalitarianism to include all varieties of narrow-mindedness.

But the album’s four additional Lundy compositions are comparatively banal. In a couple of cases, stellar contributions from special guests tend to mask the tunes’ prosaicism. “Sleeping Alone” has nothing new to say about bad breakups, but its hard-driving pop sensibility, fueled by trumpeter Nolan Shaheed, is infectiously appealing. Similarly, guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves animates the lyrically limpid “Where Love Surrounds Us.” As for the remaining two, “To Be Loved by You” seems to mine the same territory as “So Beautiful,” but with less genuineness, and the emotional tug-of-war “Too Late for Love” wanders all over the emotional map.

Originally published in May 2012
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