POP/ROCK: SuperHeavy, "SuperHeavy" (A&M)
This seems less an artistic collaboration than a temporary marketing partnership of a product called Middle-Aged Pop Music LLC. Mick Jagger, Joss Stone and Damian Marley are the primary singers. They wrote the songs, together with Dave Stewart, formerly of the Eurythmics, and film composer A.R. Rahman. The spirit of much of the album -- roots-reggae and R&B and arena rock and ballads -- seems to descend from Jagger's collaborations with Peter Tosh and Tina Turner in the 1970s and '80s.
An almost total lack of good songs constitutes the album's basic problem. Once that's understood, the record becomes sort of entertaining: gaudy, vacuous, densely mannered. It is a credible soundtrack for someone's gold-plated midwinter Caribbean vacation -- someone who doesn't really listen to music per se -- and it could be a pretty heavy comedy album if its intent were moved a few inches.
Marley croaks and toasts his parts; Stone does her canned soul histrionics. Rahman sings a few lines and is otherwise most noticeable when playing some goopy synthesizer passages. But Jagger is the source of the record's best unintentional humor. He throws effort into this record, whining, yammering, imprecating, imitating himself fabulously. The best song, the ballad "Never Gonna Change," sounds the least like the rest of the tracks; it sounds as if it belongs on an early-'70s Stones record.
- BEN RATLIFF, NEW YORK TIMES
JAZZ/POP: Tony Bennett, "Duets II" (RPM/Columbia)
"Children everywhere," Bennett observes on his new album of all-star duets, and it's hard not to pick up a note of panic in his voice. If it's there, he comes by it honestly: At 85, he is by some margin the oldest artist here; several of his partners come in at close to a quarter of his age. "Duets II" follows a similarly configured 2006 collection, but where that set featured plenty of over-50s (think Barbra Streisand and Paul McCartney), this one includes a sizable youth contingent: Lady Gaga, Carrie Underwood, the late Amy Winehouse. Pick up "Duets II" at Target and you'll get a bonus track with Jackie Evancho, who's 11. No wonder the guy feels surrounded.
Some of these May-December cuts sound great, particularly "The Lady Is a Tramp," in which he can't stifle his amusement with Gaga's drama-kid shtick. And of course it's a beautiful bummer to hear Winehouse do her best Billie Holiday in "Body and Soul." A clunky, chemistry-free collaboration with John Mayer, though, deflates the album's cross-generational promise; it's equally embarrassing for both men. Bennett fares better in gorgeous duets with k.d. lang and Aretha Franklin, and his romp with Willie Nelson is precisely as charming as you'd expect. But for an old pro like Bennett, there's a name for that kind of stuff: child's play.
- MIKAEL WOOD, LOS ANGELES TIMES