Back in 1989, Quincy Jones released, arguably, his most successful album in a career featuring some 70-plus solo long players dating back to 1957. Back On The Block featured three R&B #1 hits – “I’ll Be Good To You”, “The Secret Garden (Sweet Seduction Suite)” and “Tomorrow (A Better You, Better Me)” – with Jones calling in favours from his biggest associates: Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Barry White, Chaka Khan, Luther Vandross, Tevin Campbell and a host of others. A Grammy winner, it also saw Q dabble with hip-hop for the first time as Melle Mel, Ice-T, Big Daddy Kane and Kool Moe Dee, added a street edge to proceedings.
Q: Soul Bossa Nostra is similarly a very personal album and an all-star tribute, but this time around Jones serves in an Executive Producer role, inviting many of his favorite contemporary artists and producers from the worlds of pop, soul and hip-hop to revisit many of his epochal recordings from film and television, the pop charts and dancefloors. “Each artist picked a song that really resonated with them for different reasons - some of them having a connection because they remembered their parents playing the track when they were growing up. They all made them their own, and knocked them out of the park,” reflects the great man.
Err, well… not exactly Q.
With an album drawing largely from the hip-hop and street-smart R&B fields, the likes of Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Akon, Jamie Foxx, T-Pain, Q-Tip, Talib Kweli and LL Cool J are always going to add wordy raps where they were never intended. Theme tunes to such iconic shows as “Ironside” and “Sanford and Son”, whilst offering a new twist for a new generation, now sound seriously out of sorts, appealing neither to the mature market that knows the great man’s catalogue inside out, nor to the younger fan-bases of the respective producers and artists. Likewise a “Planet Rock”- style backbeat added to the slow burning “The Secret Garden” transforms the once sublime into an odd ball number with Usher, Robin Thicke, Tyrese, Tevin Campbell and a posthumous Barry White sounding seriously misplaced at half-time against a racing electro foundation. And don’t even start me on what a key-clashing mess T-Pain creates with a vocoder on “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)”; even Robin Thicke, offering his best Michael Jackson impersonation, can’t save this horse from the glue factory.
So what does work? Well, Jennifer Hudson once again underscores what a supreme talent she is on her reading of “You Put A Move On My Heart”. Ditto John Legend on “Tomorrow” (even if the song does sound like it would be more at home in the Broadway musical Annie). Snoop Dogg’s unique tones always hit the mark as he adds a raw P-Funk edge to the refashion of the Brothers Johnson’s “Get The Funk Out Of My Face”, and Mark Ronson producing a rehabilitated Amy Winehouse on “It’s My Party” is a perfect marriage and great spin on the ‘60s pop standard. Mary J. Blige delivers a fresh street slant, and another sterling vocal, on “Betcha Wouldn’t Hurt Me”, with Q-Tip’s distinctive spoken passage adding a new twist to an old favourite.
Unfortunately, as with Q’s Jook Joint, an ill-conceived celebration of African-American culture and tradition from 1994, Q: Soul Bossa Nostra similarly proves the old adage that sometimes-too-much-of-a-good-thing-can-sometimes-be-a-bad-thing.
About the Writer
Lewis Dene has been involved in the many facets of music business for over 20 years. As a music journalist he has previously written for Blues & Soul, Record Collector, Music Week and the BBC, in the process compiling and/or writing liner notes for over 200 CDs (including a number for SoulMusic Records). Lewis currently consults for Kings Of Spins and is a resident DJ for Hed Kandi in America.