Fantasia Back To Me

Forget about her recent aspirin-fuelled suicide attempt, reality series and the delays surrounding American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino's third offering, Back To Me, and you'll find a nice surprise: a commercial, mainstream, admittedly slick album that doesn't suck. In fact, this is a pretty damn good album showcasing a more refined, yet vocally uninhibited, Barrino. Cribbing titles from the Jackson 5 ("Who's Been Lovin' You"), B.B. King (her slamming duet with Cee-Lo) and sampling Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Your Precious Love" on "Collard Greens & Cornbread" keeps the groove within the honoured soul continuum, helping to balance out some of the filler, which is often saved by Barrino, who still delivers a throaty, emotional punch to even the most generic material. Closing with the transcendent "I'm Here" (from The Color Purple musical, in which she appeared), Back To Me is a definite step forward for Fantasia Barrino. (J/Sony)