"New Life," Monica
CD reviews 4/22: Monica and Sidi Toure
- April 21, 2012 - 4:38 PM
R&B: Monica, "New Life" (RCA)
Monica, like her two-time duet partner and onetime rumored professional rival, Brandy, is an artistic daughter of Whitney Houston. But the 32-year-old has always had a bit more grit and street veneer than Houston, qualities that have made her brand of R&B fit more smoothly in the realm of post-hip-hop R&B. Still, they can't quite save "New Life," a slickly produced collection of largely generic, meandering songs about self-affirmation in the wake of heartache and romantic disillusionment.
"It All Belongs to Me," her much-hyped reunion with Brandy, replaces the irresistible catfight of their first duet, "The Boy Is Mine," with sisterly bonding as they each discard a trifling lover. The track never really ignites. It's only on "New Life's" final two tracks -- "Cry," produced by Salaam Remi, and "Time to Move On," produced by D. Smith -- that Monica's seasoned, emotive voice soars.
ERNEST HARDY, LOS ANGELES TIMES
WORLD: Sidi Touré, "Koima" (Thrill Jockey)
Touré, from Mali, plays varieties of traditional African blues akin to his late countryman, Ali Farka Touré; they share a musical lineage but not a familial one. His first album for American indie label Thrill Jockey, last year's "Sahel Folk," was a low-key acoustic set of convivial and hypnotic duo recordings made at his sister's house. On "Koima," the guitarist and singer expands his palette: He recorded it in a Bamako studio with a quintet that includes a lead guitarist, bass player, vocalist, calabash player and soukou (violin) player. It's a livelier and brighter album, but it's no less entrancing.
On the album's centerpiece, the nearly eight-minute "Ishi Tanmaha (They No Longer Hope)," the mood is somber and cyclical, but elsewhere the rhythms quicken with lightning runs on guitar and violin and vibrant call-and-response vocals that contrast Touré's deep voice with Leila Gobi's high-pitched one. Koima means "go hear." It's good advice.
STEVE KLINGE, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
JAZZ: Brad Mehldau Trio, "Ode" (Nonesuch)
For proof that evolution exists, look no further than this transformative trio CD from pianist Mehldau, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard. The three have been together for much of the past seven years. And these originals have changed along with them. By now, they come off like sonic DNA; no one else could make these liquid beauties.
The session is, at root, a series of tributes. The flowing "M.B." (for Michael Brecker) honors the late tenor saxophonist, while "Kurt Vibe" is for the vanguard-leading guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, whom Mehldau cites as a serious influence. The set is melodic and kind of daring. It flows into some groove places and creates lots of little electric moments that the best trios make.
KARL STARK, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
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