the id, Macy Gray

Is Macy Gray -- of the helium voice, chocolate mushroom cloud hair and body evoking Michelin's tireman -- a freak or a freak? Is her art about a severe need for a Prozac-heavy cocktail of MAO-inhibitors? (see the wildly percolating "You're Relating To A Psychopath") Or is it more about dropping one's inhibitions and getting as down in it as anyone since Prince Rogers Nelson grappled with libido, fellatio and whatever else kinked his carnality? (see above)

With the id, who knows? Gray, who stunned with loose grooved funk and open-truthed manifestos about sexual reality, arrived smearing the lines, pushing the how-it-is of male/female politics and just plain getting bizzy. But is the groove she strikes of the Teddy Pendergrass/Barry White tenor? Or more a self-conscious flashpoint designed to draw in with prurience rather than George Clinton's flex and release, cum and go with a cigarette in one's mouth and an exhale of utter spent-sion on one's lips?

Certainly both the psychological and the sexual are here -- and the beats mined are as close to Sly Stone as anyone's gotten since the Family truly defied held constraints of their time and place. Churlish, undulating, Gray's unafraid of boogie oogie oogie disco froth on "Sexual Revolution," just as she's more than happy curling up in a wave of hormones that marks the Angie Stone/Mos Def guesting "Nutmeg Phantasy" that is so fine, slam me against a wall and pick up whatever's left to do it again.

But to go straight to the g-spot -- pick your groove, they're all applicable in this case -- Gray seeks to melt the want-to with the bereavement of abandonment, the get-a-clue-boy and the roughness that is implicity in this world. If Marvin Gaye preached a gospel of sexual healing and let's-get-it-on, he also understood sublimating desire (we can't bone ALL the time) to put that tension towards something better.

Joined by Slick Rick for "Hey Young World, Part 2," it's meant as street reporting and a little throwdown of the how-it-should-be. The track cooks, but how serious can a mother who left the kids in Dayton and appears obviously stoned, making less than no-sense on awards shows be taken?

Maybe we should up the MAO Inhibitor score.

Yet Gray, who may not be the world's strongest role model, knows how to get the ladies in lockstep -- or rather lockgrind undulating through "Harry," a song where the stallion in service is good for one thing only, and then truly needs to git on his way. As the horns roll out trills of punctuation, this is Macy Gray on the way sex and climax is for sisters who truly are doing it for themselves. Feeling cheap young man? Well, take what you get and be grateful, because this WO-man has no illusions about needing more than what's between your legs in a turnabout that gives Harry pause for consideration.

No doubt she's about hitting then quitting from the hurt of being the one that ain't connecting on "Don't Come Around," the sultry slow freak featuring Gray protégé Sunshine Anderson. Some guy wants to move on and be friends, but our lady of the cosmic bullride ain't havin' it. Pain isn't nothing she's prolonging -- so if you gotta go, to borrow from Dylan, go now. But don't look back and don't remind her what was. Languorous, it steams in that way of low, deep bends and the burlesque roll of the hips around that pole one final time.
If the id balances mostly between imperfect ends and couplings hot enough to melt diamonds, Gray hits a high on the hushed "Sweet Baby" featuring nu soul's mother earth Erykah Badu. With a descending melody, this is the one moment of equanimity …of separate and equal and committed. No tug, no pull, no need, no want -- just settled and settling and fine.

Sure, Gray is about the loud and the funky. "Oblivion" channels the Family Stone and "Blowin' Up Your Speakers" is anarchy under a groove; it feels good and may be enough.
But to dig deep, to connect in a way that sticks, it's the stuff that provokes the mind more than the hips where Gray finds her mettle. That's something to consider more than the initial feel good, oughta should of immediate gratification.

Grade: B

-- Holly Gleason