Lionel Richie has written, produced and performed many timeless hits, yet he failed to change with the times. Sticking to what he does best brought him millions of loyal followers while new, younger fans eluded him. On this, his latest solo offering, Richie pushes his pen, paper and piano aside, putting his talent in the hands of current hit makers Raphael Saadiq, Dallas Austin and Jermain Dupri to freshen-up his sound. The results are rewarding. Richie sound great on modern, up-tempo production, while the upgraded writing stays respectful of Richie's legacy. "I'm Coming Home" and "I Call It Love" push forward, "I Love You" is like a Lionel Richie slow song of the past with a twist.
The Mars Volta
An album from The Mars Volta is like an extravagant Broadway Musical; each track plays like an act, a big budget production of lights, sights, sounds and elaborate set changes. One gets the feeling of being taken away to another place, otherworldly entertainment more boulder revolution than rock'n roll. On this, their latest full-length studio album, Volta commands attention like an annoying doorbell, yet ones aren't anxious to answer like previewing a popular ringtone. Sometimes electric, sometimes jazzy, sometimes without definition, Amputechture, through ominous vocals and numerous instrumental change-ups, rocks musical expectations to sleep on a broken branch of the most beautiful tree. "Day of the Baphomets" and "Tetragrammaton" are but two of eight tracks here that will have you bopping, shaking and scratching your head, all while smiling from enjoyment.
Like during the 90's with Faith Evans, Dream and Total, Sean Combs' Bad Boy Records is never without a bad girl. The label's latest is Cassie, a versatile soft-voiced singer who can ride pop, hip-hop or R&B production. The first single "Me & U" was just a taste, ones here get more of full course on this solid album. "Kiss Me" and "Call U Out" are fun, while she shows what she can really do on "About Time" and "Not With You."
Chingy scored huge in 2003 with "One Call Away," his third and biggest hit single from debut album Jackpot. His second album, 2004's Powerballin', had no winning tickets. So for his third bet Chingy reuses a three-year-old charm. Current single "Pullin Me Back" mimics 'One Call' perfectly. The rest of the album also reminds of his previous work, terribly written corny-toads hopped with bouncy-buttered production. Chingy has the MC skill of an empty Skittles bag; his lyrics and delivery are laughable, making it hard for ones to take him serious. C'mon: he refers to himself as Ching-A-Ling; how funny is that? His tough-guy-act comes packaged with deliberate word slurs that are comedic – not cool. "Nike Aurrs & Crispy Tees" is a feeble attempt to capitalize off trends set by Nelly, St Lunatics and Dem Franchise Boyz. They're not even good trend to begin with. Opening tracks "Hands Up" and "Club Getting Crowded" should be enough to have ones making U-turns right out this falling star's 'hood.'
Mail press and album review material to - Joe Walker, PO Box 1375, East Lansing, MI 48826-1375, 517-914-6976.