Randy Crawford is the kind of singer who's so assured in her craft, she can open an album with barely a whisper—here, on a hauntingly romantic "Wild Is the Wind"—and still completely cap

Randy Crawford is the kind of singer who's so assured in her craft, she can open an album with barely a whisper—here, on a hauntingly romantic "Wild Is the Wind"—and still completely captivate the listener. In an even riskier move, especially in a genre where edge counts, she follows that up with the sugary "Merry Go Round," which in her hands seems a remarkably wise treatise on love. Then again, Crawford imparts wisdom in every song she approaches, from a featherlight rendition of "Alfie" to the dark, techno-touched "When I Get Over You." But the primary emotion on Permanent (as implied by the title of the European version, Play Mode) is joy, which resonates not just on the dance-spiked "Sweetest Thing" and (a cover of Stevie Wonder's) "All I Do," but on the heartbreakers as well. When that smile-through-the-tears delivery is matched with the Burt Bacharach/Tonia K-penned "Tell It to Your Heart," the result is gripping. So much so, it's hard to imagine a lover—or listener—able to resist.—AB