Taking a break from the Bird and the Bee's retro electronics, Inara George teamed up with family friend Van Dyke Parks to create an album of elegant symphonic pop. An Invitation is the stylish result, with George playing the part of a modern-day jazz singer (she's more Norah Jones than, say, Diana Krall) over layers of strings, flutes, brass, and piano. Given the general lack of percussion, George is required to set her own pace, a challenge she meets with nimble phrasing and rubato delivery. Parks also adapts to his partner, working around her subtle vocals by heaping on the violins and limiting the presence of bright, brassy horns. Even so, An Invitation is nothing if not a Parks record; his influence is felt in every measure, every quarter note, and he arguably deserves to share top billing with George. Putting the two on equal ground might've also encouraged more push and pull in the melodies, which often lack the memorable hooks of George's previous work. George and Parks hardly coast along on the strength of their pedigrees, however, and An Invitation fares better as the duo's debut effort rather than George's follow-up to The Bird and the Bee. This is an album for Sunday afternoons, for fans of Frank Sinatra and Aaron Copeland, for sophisticates who want music to soothe their minds rather than demand its full attention.