V.V. Brown, "Travelling Like the Light"
If Shirley Bassey recorded at Memphis' Sun Records studios with Phil Spector producing and Dr. Dre mixing, you'd probably get something that sounds like V.V. Brown's debut release, "Travelling Like the Light." The British vocalist was pegged as a Beyoncé-style pop/ R&B diva during an abortive mid-decade Los Angeles stint. But escaping that environment allowed her to develop the genre-straddling, retro-modern mélange of "Travelling Like the Light," which was released overseas last July. Brown opens the 12-song set with the thumping club beat and rockabilly licks of "Quick Fix" and then strikes a hip-hop pose on "Game Over." The singer can also convincingly quiet things down, as displayed on such torchier fare as "I Love You" and the title track. And Brown slyly appropriates the '30s piano standard "Heart and Soul" on "Crazy Amazing." The album's standout track is "Shark in the Water," with its acoustic opening and swelling, anthemic chorus. -Gary Graff