CD reviews: Robin Thicke, Tony Bennett, Gloria Estefan
On first listen, the music on "Blurred Lines" is hardly essential, recycling Kool & The Gang, disco, and street beat into a neo-dance pop puree. And yet, from the get-go, it’s utterly engaging more for its audacity as opposed to the stuff from which it was made.
Newcomer Robin Thicke steals some thunder from Justin Timberlake in “Give It 2 U” inserting slipshod rap to paper over the obvious debts in sound and attitude, adding cool falsettos where Daft Punk would have used vocodered vocals and the electro slant earning earthy R&B warmth.
“4 The Rest of My Life” basks in the diced and clipped memories of Hall & Oates’ blue-eyed soul.
The easygoing manner in “Top of The World” is typical—the beats and rhythms never clunk or crash with pre-programmed predictability.
Like splashes of raindrops on a summer day, the varied fares on "Blurred Lines:—featuring some things borrowed, some things rehashed—radiate with the joy that must have gone in their making.
Thicke has created an interesting whole from a mosaic of refracted influences.
This is actually a two-fer – eight throwbacks to crooner Tony Bennett’s classic period in the ‘60s and 13 duets with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, Michael Buble and Lady Gaga among others. It’s packaged to complement the American singer’s five-Asian city tour last September that included a show in Manila.
The latest compilation stays true to the jazz crooning tradition right down to the big band backing of Bennett alone and jamming with his co-performers. In his solo pieces, he sings in the maudlin tradition of the giants of the pre-Beatles period, from Frank Sinatra to Matt Monro. The highlights of course are “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” and “Who Can I Turn To?”
With the duets, he gets to enjoy the company of some of the finest pop and jazz singers today. The set opens with Bennett stepping up to the mic with Sinatra to deliver a cheery “New York, New York.” From there, one surprise leads to another, most prominently his lively duet with Diana Kral, the Broadway flair of his twosome with Lady Gaga and the ‘50s jazz blues romp with the late Amy Winehouse.
"The Classics" combines the best of parts of Bennett’s own "Greatest Hits" releases and the more recent "Duets" series. Though the album spans two different eras, the peculiar appeal of Bennett’s suave voice is unsullied and unmistakable.
Anybody who’s been at the top of the pops in an earlier time seems to be on the comeback trail via the remake back door. So here’s 1980s second division pop star Gloria Estefan walking down memory lane with favorite standards from another era, some of them older than the returning diva herself.
An orchestra backs up Estefan’s journey through the past and the pairing results in mostly warm revivals of classics. She’s at her best with intrinsically languid ballads like “Good Morning Heartache” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face, and those that hint of samba like “”Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar.”
However, Estefan conveys “How Long Has This Been Going On?” with the same lethargic pace and Ambrosia’s chestnut loses its edge. It’s the same arrangement with her version of “Young At Heart” and “The Way You Look Tonight,” their essences dissipated in droning monotone.
It’s easy to forget she once fronted the fiery Miami Sound Machine. One hopes she’ll find the old flame next time around so her chilly yin gets its balmy yang for a more pleasurable combination.