In April 2016, Macy Gray entered an old church in Greenpoint, Brooklyn to record one of the most distinctive albums of her career. Stripped, originally released on the Chesky Records label, matched the R&B diva with a jazz quartet. On original songs, favorites from her discography, and unexpected covers alike, Gray's smoky rasp took full flight. On March 17, 7a Records - the label best-known for its deep dives into the world of The Monkees - reissues Stripped for the very first time on both CD and 180-gram white vinyl.
With Stripped, Macy Gray returned to her musical roots. The self-described "underground jazz singer" was invited by brothers David and Norman Chesky to join the label for an LP unlike any other she had previously recorded. Since their label's inception, the Cheskys aimed to bring a live-in-the-studio sound to home listeners. One innovation was the introduction of Binaural+ sound. Binaural sound is traditionally achieved via "dummy head recording," in which a mannequin's head is outfitted with a microphone in each ear, and intended for listening on headphones. The brothers modified this system (hence the "+") so that the recordings would be compatible for playback on traditional speakers while retaining their lifelike, arrestingly intimate sound. Stripped was recorded live on the "dummy head" to 192k/24-bit in the Binaural+ process with no overdubs; what's heard on the album is what producer David Chesky heard in the studio.
Gray was accompanied on Stripped by Wallace Roney (who had been mentored by Miles Davis and played alongside Dizzy Gillespie, Chick Corea, and David Sanborn); drummer and Brooklyn jazz mainstay Ari Hoenig; up-and-coming bassist and onetime child prodigy Daryl Johns; and guitarist Russell Malone (whose many credits include Diana Krall, Harry Connick, Jr., and Ray Brown). The repertoire was accessible to both Gray's existing fans and to jazz purists; she reinvented her chart-topping, Grammy-winning 1999 hit "I Try" as well as four other gems from her 1999-2014 discography. Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" and Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" were beautifully reimagined while three new songs including the languid "Annabelle" premiered on Stripped.
Stripped debuted on the U.S. Traditional Jazz Albums chart at No. 2 and impressively placed just one rung lower on the Jazz Albums survey; it also netted Gray the Best Album - Jazz with Vocals trophy at the Independent Music Awards. Indeed, Macy Gray has remained fiercely independent, staying true to her voice while musically diversifying at every turn. Stripped remains one of the most organic sets in her discography: a mellow, moving, and deeply soulful journey with a singular artist.
7a's deluxe package has all of the same hallmarks as the label's Monkees releases. The CD package offers a 20-page booklet with full lyrics and new liner notes by TSD's Joe Marchese; the lavish vinyl package also includes both the lyrics and liner notes. The vinyl version is pressed onto 180-gram "cool white" vinyl. With this reissue, Stripped's soul-drenched fusion of pure jazz and adult R&B comes into its own once again. Look for it on March 17 from 7a Records!
Macy Gray, Stripped (Chesky 389, 2016 - reissued 7a Records 7A054 (CD)/7A055 (LP), 2023)
- Sweet Baby
- I Try
- She Ain't Right for You
- First Time
- Nothing Else Matters
- Redemption Song
- The Heart