One thought emerges upon listening to San Diego native Andra Day’s inspired debut: Oh, that voice. A little Nina Simone, a little Erykah Badu, a little Amy Winehouse, the singer arrives all Andra Day. This confident, stylish pop R&B record ushers in a sophisticated vocalist who faithfully reflects past influences while remaining contemporary and relevant. A savvy mix of big, orchestrated ballads (“Rear View”), late-night blues (“Gin and Juice” — no not Snoop’s), throwback romantic pop (“Forever Mine”), and inspiration (“Rise Up”), the set covers vast territory without losing focus. With powerful, polished vocals and jazz-influenced phrasing and intonations, Day proves remarkably expressive. The songs, produced by Raphael Saadiq among others and featuring Questlove and the Dap-Tones, are best dealing with details; all nuance evaporates when Day goes broad or relies on slogans (“Cheers to the Fall”). A noir-ish “Only Love” not only nods to “Back to Black” Winehouse, but hints that Day is primed to sing the theme for a post-“Spectre” Bond film.
ESSENTIAL “City Burns”
Andra Day opens for Lenny Kravitz at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion on Saturday.
Ken Capobianco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.