The opening track on Lina's new album Morning Star — a minor-key, melodic song with blithe, feel-goody lyrics, appropriately called "Wake Up" — shows that the Los Angeles-based R&B singer has obviously spent a lot of time listening to her predecessors. You'll hear traces of old blues divas and '60s-era torch singers (like Nancy Wilson and Astrud Gilberto) in her vibrato cadence and syncopated phrases. Not to mention Lina has a real old-school conception of the romantic ballad form. Her songs are earnest, affectionate dedications enriched by paired vocal harmonies, canned classical strings, and studied instrumental parts; the lyrics are sweet and chaste, the tone believable enough that a protracted ooooh oooh oooh can actually mean something private and intimate.
With seventeen tracks and three interludes, Morning Star is a marathon of an album that shows Lina's full vocal range, but seems a little cluttered in the middle. It's not clear why the singer — who debuted on Atlantic Records — went independent, but she's taken advantage of the newfound freedom by releasing what's essentially a director's cut: Sluggish numbers like "Feel the Love" (which has a rap for the bridge) and "Break Through" (which reprises the melody of "Wake Up," with a hook that goes on and on) should have probably been left on the editing-room floor. Still, many of Lina's song selections are quite choice, and show her sophistication as a composer. She sounds best incorporating vintage styles — the cha-cha rhythm on "Thru the Fire" or the ragtime piano on "Who's Your Daddy— into heavily produced studio arrangements, creating a hybrid that's disarming and often compelling. With the help of a good editor, she'll really shine. (Mood Star)
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