This guest-strewn project lacks the magic of previous Quincy classics.
Martin Longley 2010-12-09
The veteran composer and arranger Quincy Jones has straddled an astonishing range of musical developments over five decades. He was there with Dizzy Gillespie in 1956. He was there for the scoring of Sidney Lumet’s classic noir flick The Pawnbroker. He was there for Frank Sinatra in the 1960s. He was also there for Michael Jackson's Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad albums. Now he's here (or maybe not) for this latest guest-strewn project, right up-to-the-moment, surrounded by all the biggest names in hip hop, pop and RnB. Jones is listed as executive producer, so thankfully he might not be directly responsible for some of the ensuing musical transgressions.
There weren't too many opportunities for Jones to arrange or conduct during the course of this project, which is angled towards the vocal performance, whether sung or rapped. Its instrumental contributions serve mostly as a backdrop to the posturings of its guests. Electro-beats and synth-squiggles are paramount, but they're never too dominant in the production. There's good reason for the opening placement of Ironside, featuring Talib Kweli. This song actually manages to merge retro and modern elements, even though its mix sounds somewhat curiously incongruous, as if its stylistic parts have been locked in a room together. Horns, bongos and car-chase bass are all in place, but this excitement isn't sustained.
Tracks such as Give Me the Night and Secret Garden suffer from an overly saccharine coating, and the absolute nadir is reached with the repellent You Put a Move on My Heart. Wyclef Jean’s rhymes on Many Rains Ago are tough, but the musical backing of lightweight bounce doesn't match. Those vocal harmonisers still won't disappear; surely they've got to be going out of fashion soon? Not if the horrific PYT (Pretty Young Thing) has its way. Snoop Dogg improves matters with Get the Funk Out of My Face, which is, er, fairly funky. Puzzlingly, all cussing is excised throughout this disc. It's not clear whether profane versions are in existence. Times have certainly changed.
Amy Winehouse supplies the (very) odd track out, with It's My Party. This brief-but-lusty foray suggests how the album could have had a completely different orientation, feeding off the retro-soul uprising, and maybe boasting Sharon Jones, Jamie Lidell, Lee Fields, Aloe Blacc, Duffy and Charles Bradley as its fantasy guest roster. It might be fruitless to entertain such wishes, but it doesn't feel so futile whilst caught in the midst of spinning this particular disc.