Fried Fried (London Records) Legend has it that former The Beat and Fine Young Cannibals songwriter David Steele searched the world for vocalist Jonte Short. Despairing of the dearth of pop talent available to sing the clutch of trip-hop songs he was writing, he embarked on a five-year worldwide hunt for the perfect voice. He found it by chance in Short, a 23-year-old mum who he discovered at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Spurning the likes of the fright-wigged gravel voice of Macy Gray who, as the same legend has it, was desperate to sing Steele's songs, he went with Short. The trip-hop sounds of Fried are nothing new, but Steele came up trumps with Short. Her vocals soar like Shara Nelson's, lifting the often plodding music several notches closer to perfection. From the first few bars of opener and debut single When You Get Out of Jail, it's obvious that Short is poised to become a big talent. Like Nelson, who made Massive Attack's Blue Lines the masterpiece it has since become, Short combines the soulfulness of Aretha Franklin with the sweetness of Minnie Ripperton. Sadly, thanks to its loping, infectious - and slightly dated trip-hop - groove, Fried is destined to become a staple of dinner party playlists the world over and this CD is likely to be placed on coffee tables alongside such undeserving crud as Norah Jones, Amy Winehouse and all the other cod-jazz tripe out there. It would find better company among the ubiquitous 'chill-out' albums that bear the names of Mediterranean nightclubs. Smooth and groovesome, Fried is the acceptable sound of corporate soul.