HIT AND MISSY
Elliott’s latest fails to impress. Plus: soul survivors, and a moving tribute to Sublime
“The Cookbook”, Goldmind/Atlantic
Missy Elliott has a remarkably consistent track record of combining stylistic innovation and commercial success, with a series of freakishly catchy hits that match her outre sensibility with her producer pal Timbaland’s off-kilter beats. All of that came to a creative peak on the brilliantly strange 2002 hit “Work It.”
On “The Cookbook”, though, Timbaland is in the kitchen on only two cuts. As a result, Elliott delivers the first merely mediocre album of her career.
It has its soulful, compelling moments, such as the confessional “My Struggles,” with Grand Puba and Mary J. Blige, and even better, “Irresistible Delicious”, which makes excellent use of the insouciant flow of rap legend Slick Rick. But “The Cookbook” is ultimately not much more than a serviceable party record. From Elliott, we’ve come to expect a more nourishing repast.
Reviewed by Dan DeLuca
“Classic Moments”, Def Soul
“Vivian”, Sony Urban
To hear these Philadelphians tell it, soul never really got too hijacked by hip-hop. For veteran Patti LaBelle and youngster Vivian Green, soul is all about desperation and joy within supple arrangements and vocal twists beneath the rhythms.
Lacking a memorable song, Green’s voice inhabits the colors of each careful arrangement, such as the flying strings of “Under My Skin” and the flickering guitars of “Mad”. From her lyrics to the ache in her high register, Green conveys how some emotions surprise her, from the sadness of “Frustrated” to the carnality of “Damn”.
What Green is just gathering, LaBelle has cultivated during her decades-long career. Without too much sass or gloss, she takes to these slow classics with the sort of simmering and seasoning any great cook would.
Her hefty voice bounces off the Fender Rhodes bump of “I Keep Forgetting” and winnows through the gospelish “Ain’t No Way.” Amen to that.
Reviewed by A.D. Amorosi
“Look at All the Love We Found: A Tribute to Sublime”, Cornerstone
Nothing overshadows the tragedy at the heart of Sublime’s legacy: Singer Brad Nowell’s succumbed to a heroin overdose, leaving behind a wife and baby just before the band’s self-titled breakthrough LP appeared in 1996.
Sad too, in an altogether different way, is the unrealized potential of the trio, which loved punk, reggae, pop and hip-hop. This solid and varied tribute – with contributions as far gone as the Greyboy Allstars’ jazz vamp on “Doin’ Time” and as faithful as Fishbone’s bug-eyed “Date Rape” – underscores that point in a way the perpetual radio play of “What I Got” does not.
Yes, Sublime inspired hokey beach bums such as Jack Johnson, who strums on till the break of yawn here on “Badfish.” But it also dared fellow So-Cal punk-reggae kids No Doubt (who deliver a live version of “D.J.s”) to dream big.
That’s a legacy worthy of a tribute.
Reviewed by Patrick Berkery