Quincy Jones: Q: Soul Bossa Nostra

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Posted November 17, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not!’ didn’t see this one coming: Soul Bossa Nostra isn’t the album we want to remember Q by

For most of his solo recording career, Quincy Jones controlled the production qualities of his albums; directing them using the snap and rigor of a workaholic motion picture producer in a Burbank studio. Thanks to a well-trained ear towards perfectionism, Jones – throughout his five decades of culling hit records for the Milky Way of superstar R&B and pop stars – created some of the strongest albums spanning a world of musical genres and tastes including jazz, R&B, pop and hip-hop. And even if Jones took a more prominent backseat of creative control on his last two studio albums, 1989’s Back on the Block and 1995’s Q’s Jook Joint, he still remained a prominent force of gravity; luring fresh talent into his grasp and providing them the necessary platform for a career takeoff. From those two #1 R&B albums, Jones was doing his best to repeat the magical glow he once ignited with Michael Jackson on Thriller and Bad. But as newer productions required less of live instrumentation and on-the-spot session work, Q’s productions began to suffer in terms of his polished sets of his jazz fusion and funky R&B records of the ‘70s and early ‘80’s.

Jones is once again overseeing a star-studded affair on Soul Bossa Bostra, but leaves the cultural patriarch almost immobile to control what happens here. Each artist on board renders their best token of appreciation to the prolific producer, but each segment comes off wacky, cartoonish and even embarrassing. The train comes out of the gate bizarrely, in prelude formation, as Talib Kweli spits out swift raps and self-indulgent ad-libs over “Ironside,” the instrumental theme song for the ‘70’s detective TV series. And then the train wreck begins: Akon tags his new lyrics to the Brothers’ Johnson classic “Strawberry Letter 23.” The mesh of Auto-tune, a hip-hop inspired chorus that loops endlessly and a bass-less arrangement brings aggravation to Akon’s creation. Jamie Foxx turns a disco gem (“Give Me The Night”) into a less-than-interesting synth-disco track. And “Secret Garden,” the prized Quiet Storm ballad from 1989’s Back on the Block, gets the Jermaine Dupri-treatment and unfortunately merges it into INOJ’s big-bass booty jam “I Want To Be Your Lady.” Even with Usher, Tyrese Gibson, LL Cool J and Tevin Campbell guesting and maintaining Barry White’s vocal from the original, the song never recovers from the irritating time signature shifts when the bridge enters the picture. Its effects are comparable to a warped record. T-Pain destroys the Michael Jackson classic “P.Y.T.” with a super overload of Auto-tune. Adding to Soul Bossa Nostra’s damage, Amy Winehouse drags Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party” as if she’s had too much to drink. And Jennifer Hudson is giving a hapless midtempo arrangement of Tamia’s love ballad “You Put A Move On My Heart.”

The rappers are heavier this time around, compared to Q’s Jook Joint. They try to take Q’s accomplishments into the hip-hop world, but comes out with mixed results. Mostly uneven. T.I. and B.o.B. tries to merge pop melodies on “Sanford and Son,” using a silly sample of – you guessed it – to keep its resemblance of a tribute to Jones. “Soul Bossa Nostra,” using fragments of 1962’s “Soul Bossa Nova,” gets the Ludacris treatment on the opening but loses some of its steam as Naturally 7 turns the song into a crossbreed of Take 6 and Trey Songz’ “Bottoms Up.”

Only thing salvageable on Soul Bossa Nostra is the disco ditty “Betcha Wouldn’t Hurt Me.” Originally heard on Jones’ masterpiece The Dude, the Stevie Wonder-penned offering gets a modest facelift on its organic funky drumming and is soaked deeply into subdued synths of Stevie Wonder’s choice of ‘80’s Yamahas. The song stretches across the seven minute mark, but the fun never dries out as Mary J. Blige works her ad-libs using disco diva finesse and Alfredo Rodriguez renders an excellent piano patch atop the groovy Studio 54 vibes.

There’s a few more interesting occurrences to frolic with, like Snoop Dogg’s respectful take on the Johnson Brothers’ “Get The Funk Out Of My Face” and the obvious misfit in the bunch, BeBe Winans’ interpretation of “Everything Must Change;” where the gospel singer evokes enough passion in his vocal performance to earn the first nod of a lead single release. But even Winans’ sermonizing of the Itzy Bitzy Spider on the song’s closing minutes isn’t enough to salvage this project. Nothing’s wrong with taking something old and making it new again, but taking something old and manipulating it into torturous modernized reincarnations can be downright hideous. And that’s how you describe Soul Bostra Nostra, at best. Even with the all-star cast, only persons willing to jump at purchasing this disc would be subscribers to VIBE. And it better come packaged in its next issue.

J MATTHEW COBB

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HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 9 November 2010
  • Label: Qwest, Interscope
  • Producers: Quincy Jones, Jermaine Dupri, RedOne, Scott Storch
  • Track Favs: Betcha’ Wouldn’t Hurt Me

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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