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DIONNE FARRIS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Wild Seed-Wild Flower (Columbia) 1994

Marking her departure from the crowded barnyard of Arrested Development shortly after the success of the band's first album, New Jersey native Dionne Yvette Farris' solo debut strikes out on a jazzy, forward-thinking and rock-informed R&B path. Bouncy slide guitar propels both mixes of the infectious and uncommon "I Know" (a hit in '95) as Farris' vocal swoops make the song a dazzler. Alternately sassy, introspective and resolute in her lyrics, the singer/songwriter takes on the roles of a drug to be avoided in "Stop to Think" (music written by Lenny Kravitz) and advocate for a victim of physical abuse in "Don't Ever Touch Me (Again)." Tory Ruffin's heavy, near-grunge guitar chords turn the chorus of hot-and-bothered rhapsody "Passion" upside down. Farris' circular philosophizing in "Reality" ("If we are here, then where is there?/And if in fact we're here then why aren't we there?") is couched in cozy funk; musings about the self are wrapped in violin and cello on "Food for Thought." Harmonizing with herself over main collaborator David Harris' jazzy acoustic guitar and a little appropriate percussion, Farris breathes new life into the Beatles' "Blackbird." Going even further into vocalese, Farris pulls off a Bobby McFerrinish exercise in her own anti-sectarian "Human." The only bit of this fine album that doesn't make clear, compelling sense is the presence of actor David Alan Grier in two pointless little skits.

[Robin Eisgrau]
   See also Arrested Development