I know what you’re thinking.

“Big Money’s gonna shit all over this Macy Gray record, because Macy’s a laughing stock and has been for over a decade. Plus, he hates covers albums and how dare anyone remake one of the best albums ever made by anyone–especially someone like Macy Gray?”

For the most part, you’d be right.

I’ve actually got no beef with Macy. I was one of those folks that caught “the bug” early on, and while she’s not released an album as masterful as her debut, all of her albums since are worth at least a listen-there are a handful of good songs on each. I was even one of those folks who had good things to say about the offbeat collection of Covers she released earlier this year. But Stevie? A whole album of Stevie?

Not cool, Macy.

I can appreciate her appreciation for Stevie’s music, you feel me? And it woulda been cool if she’d gone into the studio, recorded this for her friends, and maybe passed it along as a Christmas gift? But she released it to the public. Given the public’s relative indifference to all things Macy Gray in recent years, I’m not too worried that people might actually buy it. But just in case you’re thinking of it? Don’t.

By buying Macy’s Talking Book, you’re basically dropping ten bucks into a karaoke machine. Macy makes a couple of changes in tempo, just so it’s not strictly a note-for-note remake, but that’s essentially it so far as innovation goes. I’ll even say she does justice to a song or two-the sassy “Maybe Your Baby” was tailor-made for her stoner’s rasp, but listening to Macy do “You Are The Sunshine of My Life,” you’ll laugh. And I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the emotion that she was going for. Her singing doesn’t have the exuberance or the sensitivity that Stevie’s does-which makes her takes on songs like “You & I,” “Blame it on the Sun” and “I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)”-three of the greatest love songs ever written or recorded-painful to listen to.

Covers albums are almost always unnecessary to begin with, so Macy was working at a disadvantage before I even heard a note of Talking Book. However, the album failed to meet even my modest expectations. Do yourself a favor (to quote an older Stevie song) and listen to the original. Nothing is ever going to top the way these songs were originally recorded and performed. If you don’t own Stevie’s Talking Book, here’s your chance to take the money you may have spent on Macy’s version and buy the original. You’ll be glad you got it.

Grade: D-

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