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My Life II...The Journey Continues [Act 1]
My Life II...The Journey Continues [Act 1]
Price: £3.99

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A winning combination between the old and the new. She never sounded better than on this one!, 21 Nov 2011
It is always a challenge facing musicians as they grow older and begin to take on the status of a heritage act: how to stay musically relevant while still retaining credibility?
Mary J Blige, who turned 40 this year, does not have to convince anyone of her talents and her legacy is assured but, after a career spanning 20 years, her later albums have often been a case of diminishing returns and have been serviceable at best.
It is a welcome relief then that "My Life II..." is a wonderfully assured collection of classy RnB pop that can justifiably rank amongst her best work.
"My Life II...The Journey Continues (Act 1)" is touted as a sequel to 1994's My Life album and, indeed, the album begins with an opening skit featuring Blige telephoning "My Life" producer P Diddy and asking him for his permission to record a sequel.
The album sees Blige in reflective mood: it is both a response to the past and a vision for the future.
The sound is classic Mary J Blige with that stunning voice very much to the fore. There is a refreshing simplicity to the sound, a mix of smooth RnB, straight ahead hip hop and sumptuous ballads.
It would be incredibly easy for Blige to feel the need to drastically update and reinvent her sound to compete with the likes of Rihanna et al but thankfully there is no sign of Nadir 'RedOne' Khayatr or the dreaded David Guetta on this record.
Despite it sounding like it could easily have came from the mid '90s, it stands strangely unique amid the electronic dance influenced RnB that seems to be de rigueur in 2011.
Make no mistake the album is not just a retrogressive retread though, there is more than enough contemporary sounds from producers such as Danja and Rico Love to make the album a winning combination between the old and the new.
The album begins with a series of upbeat songs and there is a lovely feeling of joyful exuberance to "Midnight Drive" and "Feel Inside". The feisty orchestral swing of first single "25/8" is a particular highlight. There is a great looseness to Blige's voice, a voice that has always sounded incredibly natural and pure and, in fact, she has never sounded better than on this record.
Like all RnB albums there is a long guest list, however, while the credits look impressive on paper, the quality of their input is distinctly variable.
Nas offers a typically strident rap to "Feel Inside" and "Love A Woman", featuring Beyoncé, is a classy duet between two of contemporary RnB's most striking voices. On the other hand Drake offers a rather forgettable verse to the perfectly titled "Mr Wrong" and Busta Rhymes is an unnecessary addition to the otherwise vibrant "Next Level".
The album's only real serious misfire, other than some ill judged guest appearances, is an uninspired faithful cover of Chaka Khan's "Aint Nobody". It adds nothing to the original and you get the feeling that it is there just to pad out an already bulging track list.
Befitting the reflective nature of the album the best moments here are the beautifully judged ballads that mostly fill its second half.
They are never grandiose or overblown and Blige's perfectly poised vocals are genuinely affecting.
The aching acoustic sigh of "Need Someone" is particularly tender. Blige is a singer with a real emotionally affecting story to tell and her life, which has featured bouts of drug addiction, alcoholism and depression, and her story really come across in these songs.
Most artists who have enjoyed a long and successful career are content simply to rest on past glories and creatively stagnate. That is why "My Life II..." is such an impressive collection: it manages to avoid the pitfalls of creative redundancy and combines a classic sound with a contemporary twist to perfect effect.
Perhaps for Mary J Blige this act of looking back has offered her a newly energised path for the future. M. Young
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 11, 2011 8:48 PM GMT


Immortal [Deluxe Edition]
Immortal [Deluxe Edition]
Price: £11.42

2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mere commercial exercise., 21 Nov 2011
Like Tupac before him, Michael Jackson is becoming more prolific in death than he was in life.
This is the second album that's been released since his passing in 2009 and, again, there's a distinct feeling of money being exchanged for old rope.
This time round, it's as the soundtrack to Michael Jackson's 'The Immortal Tour' by Cirque Du Soleil.
A similar feat was achieved with The Beatles' "Love album", where George Martin brilliantly re-imagined the group's back catalogue, but producer Kevin Antunes lacks the lightness of touch, hurriedly constructing songs that lurch from one section to another. R. Pearson.

Love
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 28, 2011 2:13 PM GMT


Ambition
Ambition
Price: £13.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Varied and vibrant., 14 Nov 2011
This review is from: Ambition (Audio CD)
On the title track of his sophomore release, Washington, D.C. rapper Wale declares that "Ambition is priceless, it's somethin' in your veins".
He's speaking from experience as this varied and vibrant success displays, proving he's hungry to tackle some moody deepness on the title track while, just one cut earlier, "Slight Work" finds him in 2011 party mode, bouncing with fury as a Diplo beat percolates underneath.
"Lotus Flower Bomb" is a laid-back throwback that could mix fine with any given Erykah Badu ballad, while "Illest B****" is the kind of stuff that puts hands up in the air, sounding soulful and all the way live as Wale testifies about the strong women in his life.
With the album landing on Rick Ross' Maybach Music label, there's a shout-out to the South Beach set with the sunshine soul number "Miami Nights" and as the Ross-like "Chain Music" plus the smartass gangster manifesto "No Days Off" ("The revolution may be televised/But make sure if they do see/Them people see my good side") drive the album home, it just seems natural that everything closes with producer Lex Luger at his best during "That Way".
As far as why it all hangs together so well, credit goes to Wale's talent and his strong personality, which here has grown into an interesting combination of Lil Wayne and Plies, with a little 50 Cent smirk and bit of Drake's phrasing thrown in for good measure. D. Jeffries
Best Tracks: "Don't Hold Your Applause", "Lothus Flower Bomb", "Chain Music", and "Ambition".

The album debuts at # 1 of the Billboard R&b/Hip Hop Albums and at # 2 of the Billboard 200. Issue date: November 19, 2011.


The Dreamer
The Dreamer
Price: £11.44

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fitting bookend to one of American popular music's most iconic lives., 14 Nov 2011
This review is from: The Dreamer (Audio CD)
Apparently, Etta James' musical career ends with "The Dreamer".
The legendary vocalist announced a few months back that this would be her final album. She's retiring from music in order to deal with serious medical issues.
Co-produced by James, Josh Sklair, and her sons Danto and Sametto, The Dreamer's 11 tracks offer an imperfect but utterly worthy portrait of the places she's been musically with a couple of selections that reveal her dictum that "every song is a blues".
Her signature meld of soul, blues, rhythm & blues, rock, and country are all on display here. The production underscores her lifelong commitment to these styles and suits the material at large.
Her musical accompanists include not only her co-producers, but guitarists Leo Nocentelli and Big Terry de Rouen, saxophonist Jimmy Z., trombonist Kraig Kilby, and trumpeter Lee Thornburg.
Etta James' choice of material is rigorous even if two of its selections are questionable: the cover of Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" doesn't lend itself well to the choogling boogie arrangement here; and the funkified reading of contemporary country stars Little Big Town's "Boondocks" sounds like she tried too hard to make it fit.
These cuts aside, the rest of the material is vintage; it reflects the work of Ms. James' influences and contemporaries.
Her readings of Otis Redding's "Cigarettes & Coffee" and "Champagne & Wine", Bobby "Blue" Bland's "Dreamer", Bob Montgomery's country-pop standard "Misty Blue", Ray Charles' "In the Evening", Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "That's the Chance You Take", "Too Tired" and Little Milton's "Let Me Down Easy" all contain within them not only their original traces, but the musical experience necessary to bring their subtler, deeper meanings to the fore.
She re-creates these songs not as mere touchstones or mementos from a career, but as signposts to the living, breathing tradition that bears the signature and considerable influence of her life upon them.
"The Dreamer is a fitting"-- if not perfect -- bookend to one of American popular music's most iconic lives. T. Jurek


All We Are Saying...
All We Are Saying...
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £11.01

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little too laid-back., 26 Sep 2011
This review is from: All We Are Saying... (Audio CD)
"All We Are Saying" is Bill Frisell's third album for Savoy in 13 months.
Since August of 2010, the guitarist has released "Beautiful Dreamers", "Sign of Life", and now this one. In addition, he collaborated on the duet recording "Lagrimas Mexicana"s with Brazilian guitarist Vinicius Cantuaria on Naive Jazz, released earlier this year.
All We Are Saying is a full-length offering of Frisell's interpretations of John Lennon's music.
Frisell's quintet includes violinist Jenny Scheinman, pedal steel and acoustic guitarist Greg Leisz, bassist Tony Scherr, and drummer Kenny Wollesen.
Almost none of these 16 tunes are radical reinterpretations of Lennon's songs; most stick close to the original melodies even at their most adventurous. While there are obvious attempts at rock due to the root material -- "Revolution" and "Come Together" most notably -- this isn't a 'rock' album per se, nor is it a noodling jazz record. It's much more slippery than either.
The opening "Across the Universe", with its twinning of Frisell's electric guitar and Leisz's pedal steel as Scheinman's violin picks up the lyric melody and extrapolates its harmonic aspects, is indicative of the recording's M.O., offering a close examination of Lennon 'the composer'. The interplay between the three principals is remarkable, such as on the intro to "Nowhere Man," where Scheinman's ostinato tenses up in advance of the changes, and Leisz grounds her fluidly while Frisell pulls his lower strings to wind up, allowing the track to begin then flow into more open areas without losing sight of the melody.
Sometimes it doesn't work. "Hold On" is such a ghostly sketch it's hardly there at all, and the insertion of a Bach motif in "In My Life" almost makes it a novelty tune.
"Mother", with its dissonant opening guitar, is the bluesiest thing here; its much slower tempo only adds to this impression.
"Beautiful Boy" dispenses with anything extraneous save for inserting a country stroll at its center; its pace is a bit quicker to boot.
The album closes with "Give Peace a Chance". Frisell employs an array of effects in swirling, shimmering contrast with Leisz's swelling steel and Scheinman's droning violin.
Scherr's languid bassline, and Wollesen's lack of an authoritative backbeat and slow tempo attempt psychedelia, but feel more like an opium dream. It's the only exception to the close-to-the-core feel of the the album, and it becomes something wholly other.
"All We Are Saying" is a revealing listen to the side of Lennon that isn't examined closely -- or often -- enough. That said, as a whole, it feels a bit "too" laid-back, especially given its nearly 70-minute length. T. Jurek
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 27, 2013 4:30 PM BST


Junk Of The Heart
Junk Of The Heart
Offered by Entertainment Direct
Price: £4.10

6 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars MOR pleasant pop., 12 Sep 2011
This review is from: Junk Of The Heart (Audio CD)
Having already positioned 2008's "Konk" as their "mainstream bid," these Britpop traditionalists return with a rather-quite-poppier follow-up that may be both their best and blandest yet.
As previous attempts at laddish charm like "Jackie Big Tits" have proven, wit lies outside the Kooks' still-youthfully greasy grasp.
The middle of the road was always their destiny, it seems, and they arrive with blatantly pleasant but character-free ditties to accompany you while shopping for a smart new Ben Sherman shirt, though those ditties likely will be forgotten the moment you exit the store. B.Walters

Konk


Very Best of Miki Howard
Very Best of Miki Howard
Price: £14.35

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent., 3 Sep 2011
Rhino's 2001 retrospective "The Very Best of Miki Howard" is a generous, near-definitive overview of Howard's biggest R&B hits from the '80s.
She didn't have many crossover hits, but she did have numerous entries on the R&B charts, all of which are here, including a duet with Gerald Levert, "That's What Love Is".
Although this is a little lengthy for listeners with abbreviated attention spans, it does summarize Howard's peak very well, and is as comprehensive a Howard retrospective as could be hoped for.
Best travks: "Come Share My Love", "That's What Love Is", "Love Under New Management", "Until You COme Back To Me (That's What I Am Gonna Do)" and a brilliant version of Billie Holidays's "Good Morning Heartache". S.T. Erlewine
A "must have" recording.
Miki Sings Billie


Lazy Afternoon
Lazy Afternoon
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £10.51

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unmissable: classy, gorgeous, unique., 31 Aug 2011
This review is from: Lazy Afternoon (Audio CD)
When it comes to the talents/vocals of Ms. Regina one can say that they truly transcend anything that you could pen on paper. If you are not familiar with the talents of this truly superlative artist you are missing a rare treat. This cd is awesome and breathtaking. To understand this artist you have to have been there for her humble beginnings. Stepping on the scene with "All by myself" I knew that Ms. Regina was one who could do it all.
I still enjoy hearing "Stay with Me", "Please be Mine", "After the Love Has Lost its Shine" and "Intimate Relations", all from the "All by Myself" All By Myself / Stay With Me.
Since that day Regina has move full steam ahead. She has never settled in one genre and is well able to pull off Pop, soundtracks, R&B, funk, Hip/Hop, Urban and all the in-between.
On "Lazy Afternoon" from the moment the diva opens her mouth you are virtually transported to a time and a place of tranquility. Immediately you ache for that quiet place.
#1 "Lazy Afternoon" - this track opens the door to what Ms Regina has in store. The vocals are pure and strong, accompanied by wonderful musicians and background vocals. She seems to growl as she conveys a message to the "Fly me to the Moon" - from what I remember this cut has been covered by some of the greatest including Tony Bennett, Bobby Womack and the late great Nat King Cole. But here Ms Regina incorporates her raw skills and sultry vocals to make this an ageless classic. The piano is beautiful as if it is nipping at her hills for more. The horn arrangement and the sax solo by Everette Harp are beautifully crafted. Only she can make you believe you could fly to the moon 5*
#3 "What are you afraid of" - With its big band sound this song starts with a bang and then Ms Regina settles down into its warmth. This is a wonderful sing-a-long for those who have the nerve. Here she mentions putting on Nancy Wilson - another great jazz legend - but I say Regina is the answer to your evening woes. Another classic with great instrumentals. 4*
#4 "If I Ruled the World" - "Real men don't like Broadway tunes"... Well this rendition may change your thinking on that one. I love this song. It is one of my favorites on the CD and Regina conveys such strength and depth. 5*
#5 "Corcovado" - a beautiful ballad fitting for Regina's strong vocals. The live instruments especially again the sax by Harp only reinforce the strength of the song. Regina's Portuguese is flawless and flows well without damaging - makes me a believer. Forget Diana Ktall on the track "Quiet Nights" from Quiet Nights. 5*
#6 "There is a love" - a Ms. Regina's voice. Beautiful background vocals. 4*
#7 "Why Do People Fall in Love" - Oh my God! This has got to be one of the most beautiful cuts I have heard this year I play it over and over again and you will too. Absolutely GORGEOUS, 5*
#8 "For the Love of You" - This song is how I found out that Regina had a new CD out. On this cut Regina teases us a little with a few of the oldies such as her performance of Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes' "The Love I Lost" and the Isley Brothers' "For The Love Of You". Accompanied by the Perri Sisters, Ms Regina eats this one up. However I like the radio version, which is faf better but who is complaining. Definitely not this reviewer. 5*
#9 "If I Should Lose You" - What can I say? By the time you hit this cut you should be on your second glass of wine. Drink up. A true winner with strong vocals. 5*
#10 Moanin' - This cut is shackled with that church house sound. Regina adds new flavour to a song that takes you from one extreme to the next before finally settling down somewhere between heaven and earth. It is jazz, gospel and big band all rolled up in one. You can almost hear the foot stompin/hand clappin of the ancestors. Wonderful for a workout. 5*
#11 The man I love - Another jazz classic. 5*
#12 Try a Little Tenderness - Regina would make Otis Refdding proud. She does a wonderful job here and ends on a tendernote. 5*
All and all 5* CD - A must for your collection.
Next Regina needs to tackle old standards written by Burt Bacharach or the great hith by Timi Yuro. He is known for his challenging arrangements and his ability to bring out the best in artist. Dionne can you hear me? And Timi needs a voice like Regina's to be remembered at the present days. Only Regina can make it!


Paradiso
Paradiso
Price: £9.56

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It reveals a maturity and creative streak lacking from most of her contemporaries., 30 Aug 2011
This review is from: Paradiso (Audio CD)
A decade on from her New Zealand-only self-titled debut album, and Christchurch's finest, 23-year-old Hayley Westenra, can no longer rely on the angelic-looking choirgirl persona which helped her replace Charlotte Church as the world's most successful young soprano. But having achieved quite the coup by recruiting legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone for her fifth album (and first non-seasonal studio release since 2007's "Treasure"), "Paradiso", it's unlikely that she would have had to, anyway.
Recorded with the 120-piece Roma Sinfonietta in their hometown, its 13 tracks are a world away from her usual fare of traditional hymns, operatic standards and classical pop numbers, revealing a maturity and creative streak lacking from most of her contemporaries.
Indeed, perhaps to establish her songwriting credentials, Morricone has allowed several of his most famous compositions to be rewritten by the now-grownup star, including one of his most famous pieces, "Gabriel's Oboe" (now "Whispers in a Dream"), and the themes to 1970 films "La Califfa" and "Malena", all of which show she's more than up to the rather imposing job.
The less obvious song selections also indicate Westenra is no longer content to follow the crowd, with only the soothing harmonies of "Jill's Theme" ("Once Upon a Time in the West"), the beautifully lilting vocal adaptation of "Deborah's Theme" ("Once Upon a Time In America") and the string-soaked "Profumo di Limone" and "Would He Ever Know Me Now?" (both from "Cinema Paradiso"), likely to be familiar to mainstream audiences.
Instead, the album rummages around the more obscure corners of Morricone's back catalog, with contributions from 1968 sci-fi comedy H2S (the whimsical scale-climbing "Lezione di Musica"), the docudrama "Sacco e Vanzelli" (Joan Baez's slow-building protest song "Here's to You"), and 1969's "Metti una Sera a Cena" (the bossa nova-tinged title track), sitting alongside a cover of Dulce Pontes' Portuguese-sung "Amalia por Amor," and two new tracks, the Disney-esque French festive tale, "Per Natale," and the Tim Rice-penned potential show tune, "The Edge of Love".
A huge leap forward from her previous attempts, "Paradiso" suggests Westenra may be a far more intriguing proposition outside her teenage years than she was during them. J. O'Brien

Focus
Winter Magic
Pure
Treasure


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