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Randy Crawford: Permanent

Forget pop’s so-called “divas” and set those Patti LaBelle records aside. For a truly inspiring effort from a powerful vocalist, check out Randy Crawford’s Permanent (Warner Bros., 2A-89273-B; 53:02). Crawford covers a lot of musical and emotional ground here, from gospel-toned, sweet recollections (“When Will I Be Free of Love’s Taboo”) to driving rock ‘n’ soul in a passionate demand for romantic commitment (“Permanent”), and approaches each effort with unique nuance: there’s no melody-bludgeoning show-off work here. For example, the controlled phrasings of her big, soaring voice bring warmth and power to the lyric of “Free the Child” (“Maybe love will help us to begin to free the child within”) in its glowing, world-pop arrangement of nylon guitars and trembling strings. Her emotive rasp highlights dramatic tension in the bittersweet empowerment anthem “When I Get Over You,” and the epic, old-fashioned orchestral romance of “Wild Is the Wind.” With powerful lyrics and vivid, pretty arrangements complementing her intensely personal work, this release should ensure Crawford’s Permanent position among the great modern jazz-crossover vocalists.

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