Tracy Cruz | Universoul Symphony

Tracy Cruz - Universoul Symphony

Tracy Cruz | Universoul Symphony
by Brent Faulkner

Tracy Cruz, an up-and-coming neo-soul singer, can definitely be identified as a ‘talent deserving wider recognition.’ On her sophomore effort Universoul Symphony (notice the clever play on words), Cruz asserts her dynamic alto with great conviction and ravenous grit. Throughout this superb set of thirteen cuts, Cruz sounds sultry, confident, and classic, never losing sight of the ‘soul.’ In an age where the neo-soul movement is not currently the ‘in’ trend, Cruz certainly gives compelling argument for its resurgence.

“Soundnation – Prelude” both establishes and foreshadows the effort on its production merit, featuring creative production that is laden with dramatic musical ideas (this is a ‘soul symphony after all). The orchestration of “Soundnation” transfers over into true opener “Mind Travel,” which is a well rounded cut. Cruz’s husky alto shines brightly, not to mention the nice support of subtle background vocals. While “Mind Travel” is solid, “Let’s Go Back,” featuring a rap verse by Allen Ross eclipses it, playing even more into the neo-soul vibe. The songwriting is solid, particularly a memorable chorus: “Let’s go back to the way that we were, the day we fell in love/it’s such a beautiful day, in such a lyrical way/you see me staring at you/from way across the room..” It’s follow-up “Dream Flight” is none too shabby itself, featuring a nice underlying harmonic scheme that favors jazz. As always, Cruz’s vocals shine and her accompanying background vocals put the ‘icing on the cake.’

“Peace of Soul – Interlude #1” allures showing off the strong production of the effort, not to mention the desirable girth and soulful punch Cruz can even pack in a short interlude. “Electricity” trades out neo-soul for more of a contemporary R&B laden production, which is slick. The sole complaint for “Electricity” might be that the production is a bit too ‘electric’ at times, coming over the slightest bit overproduced. That said, the array of sounds and timbres are creative. “Love’s Galaxy” works better given its ‘sonic’ instrumental palette, buttressed down by a soulful bass line. The songwriting on “Love’s Galaxy” is great, yielding the well-penned, memorable refrain: “Come fly away with me, so we can go to a place called love’s galaxy…” The major highlight? Cruz’s spirited vocal ad libs, particular when she hits her upmost register – stunning.

“Happy” is another winner – upbeat in tempo and sound. The production is as lofty as all others, featuring guitar, funky bass line, muted brass, and clanging snare and claps on two and four. What more can be said of Cruz’s brilliance? “Peace of Mind – Interlude #2” proceeds, this time taking on a more minimalist vibe than the more ornate interludes. “Rise Above,” featuring SigNatural & Yvette Plyant is a more subdued cut, serving as a welcome contrast to the more ornately produced tracks gracing this effort. “Joyful Rain” is lovely with its piano and string patches, though the slightest bit less alluring than the most compelling cuts. The penultimate cut “Flowers and Candy,” featuring Lonnye Dotson picks up an slack and finds a smart change of style, with the groove going from four to six, eventually returning back to four while closing cut “Struggle Reprise – Finale” ends the album solidly.

Overall, Universoul Symphony is a well produced and well conceived effort. Tracy Cruz always sounds inspired and possesses quite the vocal gift. For anyone who adores neo-soul and wishes and prays it will come back to the forefront of R&B, Tracy Cruz’s Universal Soul Symphony is definitely your cup of tea.

Brent Faulkner
The Urban Music Scene