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Back to Basics? Hardly basic and actually quite brilliant in places!,
This review is from: Back To Basics (Audio CD)
Well, I've had this for a while now and have been listening to it practically non-stop. It is a 'sort-of-concept' album paying tribute to the jazz and R&B greats she idolises, and is spread over two discs.
Disc one is very contemporary, featuring pulsing and vibrant R&B with a rough hip-hop edge. However, you can very much hear the blues and soul influences Aguilera sings about in "Back In the Day". There is clever use of song samples, and the tracks are reminiscent of artists such as Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, B.B. King and even Candi Staton and Minnie Riperton. On the other hand you can hear 90's hip-hop, as well as elements of funk, Latin jazz and even jazz-fusion.
The best songs on disc one create an interesting mix of old and new, resulting in something fresh and totally different to everything else in 2006. Musically it is so-o much better than "Stripped", and practically every other recent pop album!
When I first listened to it I was disappointed, but it has really, really grown on me. There is something for everyone to enjoy. Apart from some filler ("On Our Way") and some crud ("Thank You", "F.U.S.S."), it is full of great tunes. At the moment I really like "Back In the Day", "Slow Down Baby", "Still Dirrty" and "Here to Stay", and "Understand" and "Without You" have particularly grown on me. I would have been perfectly happy if disc one had been released on its own!
Disc 2 is billed as a high concept jazz album, but feels stylistically confused. The problem is that it has been labelled as a throwback to the 20's, 30's and 40's, which, apart from a handful of songs, it isn't.
However, the naughty yet witty "Candyman", the even naughtier "Nasty Naughty Boy" and authentic blues of "I Got Trouble" do fit the throwback style Aguilera says she was after. You can hear the influences - The Andrews Sisters "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" is an obvious reference point. We then move to a suite of 4 ballads. The acoustic "Save Me From Myself", with its bare, stripped down and quiet vocals, is the most understated, and unexpected, song in the entire collection. Her voice is so pretty in this song I don't know why she doesn't sing like it more often! The other ballads showcase her huge vocals, but it feels like there are too many big songs too close together, taking us to maudlin extremes. However, "Hurt" deserves mention for its fantastic vocal performance.
Disc 1 is probably the better of the two. The second disc really doesn't gel that much with me, but it is still good. However, at two discs and 80 minutes `Back to Basics' is too long, and is really let down by its weak material. With some judicious editing into a single disc, B2B could have been absolutely fantastic and I would have given it 5 stars for sure! That said, it is still a musical highlight of the year and I definitely recommend it!