CD reviews: Brand new from Sitti, Justin, Celine
Styling herself like Lani Hall, the princess of the mid-'70s bossa revivalists, Pinay pop-jazz chanteuse Sitti fused bossa nova’s Brazilian roots and ‘70s jazz fusion into a distinctively retro-modern cocktail back in the mid-‘00s.
To be sure, better local bossa voices came out after Sitti initiated the last Manila bossa explosion. She was last seen and continues to be seen doing hosting jobs and it was convenient to assume Sitti may have fallen through the cracks of her own micro-genre.
Then bang! She ushers in 2014 with a brand new album for a new record label that for all intents and purposes presages another round of Sitti-instigated bossa breakout. Go straight to a pair of covers in the middle of the album, Santana’s “Smooth” and New Radicals’ “Someday We’ll Know” and there’s the familiar voice moving into blues, soul and ‘50s jazz crooning backed by one of the most impressive instrumental support since the days of Emil Mijares and Batucada.
Need more proof? Sitti bends The Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” into a good pop-friendly fusion number. Then she and studio band lay out the laid-back side of Coldplay’s early prog-pop classic “Yellow.”
Pianist Arvin Querido and drummer Junjun Regalado provide stellar backing for Sitti’s major come-back. It’s easy to fall in love with Sitti and her music once more.
"20/20 Experience 2 of 2"
A few months separate this latest release from pop music’s favorite solo musician and a breadth of differences divides the two as if they didn’t come from the same umbilical cord.
The good news is "2/2" isn’t a collection of outtakes from the "20/20 Experience" version 1.0, which just happened to be one of the best-selling albums of 2013. Even better, this latest release features collaboration with Drake and Jay Z, with producers Timbaland and Jerome “J-Roc” Harmon letting loose skittering beats and oddball rhythms in whitey’s freak house.
The usual reference is Timberlake’s previous studio album, "FutureSex/LoveSounds," but the new "2 of 2" could be closer to the mix of pop sounds and “experimental” party tracks by the likes of George Michael and Prince. It’s Timberlake’s attempt to straddle his star turn with his closet art aesthetics.
You get the retro-soul swoon of “Amnesia” with the robotic funk, Gang Nam style of “True Blood.” Timberlake resurrects the ghost of Michael Jackson in the spine-tingling soulful ballad “Take Back The Night” and borrows a few slow jam tricks from Stevie Wonder in album opener “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)” as well as in “Cabaret” featuring rising phenom Drake.
In "Experience 2 of 2," Timberlake present his arty side and his fans should be pleased to get a second serving of the man’s gritty vision.
"Loved Me Back To Life"
This is the Canadian diva’s first English language release in six years. She spent most of those years doing Vegas shows.
While the title on the new album presumes Dion may now be fading from her broad audience’s memory, the roster of collaborators alone would spare her the aggravation. Those who checked in at the recording session included A-star songwriter Diane Warren, producer Babyface and Ne-Yo and Stevie Wonder for some dope duets. It should be a blast to end all questions as to who’s The Supreme Diva?
Over the course of the album though, Dion skirts the question and tempers the volume-drenched numbers line “Incredible” with a healthy dose of breezy pop tunes, especially her cover of Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen” and “Didn’t Know Love.” Just as incredible, this new album becomes much easier to appreciate and cherish over the stretch.