CD reviews: Jazzy Bryan Ferry, coarse-lipped Minaj

Posted at 02/03/13 2:08 PM

Nicki Minaj

"The Re-Up"

Nicki Minaj's new album

Just when you thought nothing more could be added to rap’s multi-faceted story, along comes Nicki Minaj’s recent three-disc bundle "The Re-Up," which includes her latest album, "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded," a DVD of promo videos and an EP of new tracks. It’s the usual "deluxe" reissue to fill up the space between studio releases.

At this point in her career, Minaj doesn’t need the lavish attention, given her easily recognizable presence as judge in the ongoing season of "American Idol," a show beamed across the globe. Nevertheless, "The Re-Up" set presents yet another facet of Minaj especially her successful pairing of a keen pop sense with acidic wordplays.

She still flings the big “f”, “B” and “c” words with enough sarcasm to put hunk MCs in their place. Listen beyond the coarse put-downs though and your ears will be rewarded with melodic choruses, funky breaks, and hands-in-the-air keyboard flourishes.

Her videos affirm Mika’s global stardom in a series of quick interviews and a few concert footages. The new songs on the third CD seem like sketches to be fleshed out on the next record.

It’s smarmy Nicki in "Re-Up." How she puts up the good girl front on “Idol” is another tale altogether.


"The Origin of Love"

Mika's new album

This is songwriter Mika’s third release and the two discs present a class act equally at home with anthemic pop tunes and bleeding heart ballads. No matter the genre, the key to Mika’s star turn are the hooks oozing out of every song.

The opening title track runs circles around the Bee Gees catalogue before the disco deluge. “Love You When You’re Drunk” plays out of a sunny Beach Boy sensibility. “Stardust” sways and sashays in fab boy band drag while ”Lola” borrows nuggets from ‘70s soft rock.

Mika is in excellent form throughout allowing room for his lyrics to come through even in his breathless falsetto moments. The accompanying musicianship deserves praise as well evoking the spirit of a certain pop age without wallowing in nostalgia.


Bryan Ferry Orchestra

"The Jazz Age"

Bryan Ferry Orchestra's new album

More a mood than a concept, "The Jazz Age" reconstitutes 13 Bryan Ferry-penned compositions from their slick, pop-rock origins to the sound of an older period -- ragtime-era jazz. In the liner notes, Ferry himself refers to an early start in music appreciation listening to instrumental jazz.

Fans of Ferry and Roxy Music have every reason to rejoice, except that Ferry does not sing on this one. He is credited as co-producer and director of an album that draws heavily from the music of Roxy Music and his own solo albums.

In jazzing up pop-rockers, the orchestra retains the main melody and redefines context of each song in a harmonious interplay of sax, trombones, and the drum and bass combo.

“Love Is The Drug” becomes a slow bluesy tune with a devilish banjo moving in and out of synch. Full-tilt ‘30s ragtime jig takes “The Bogus Man” and “Don’t Stop The Dance” to the time warp of ‘50s rock and roll. “Virginia Plain” won’t be out of place in the recent renaissance of hillbilly music hailing from backwoods America.

The overall effect is not one of pining for a lost time or finding a lost chord. Instead, the virtuosic playing from a bunch of British sessionistas keeps "The Jazz Age" rocking to a contemporary beat.