Album: Love & Life

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Album:

Love & Life

Artist: Mary J. Blige
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A return to roots of sorts, Love & Life finally reunites Mary J Blige with the producer who made her the bona fide R&B star she is today, Sean “Puffy/P Diddy” Combs. Arguably, Combs needs the reunion more than she does—since masterminding Blige’s first two albums, What’s the 411 and My Life, his production kudos has suffered at the hands of his rapping and image, while she’s gone from strength to strength. Keen to make her sixth album an event, Puffy pulls out all the stops, dusting off his taste and imagination, and thumbing his Rolodex for…

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A return to roots of sorts, Love & Life finally reunites Mary J Blige with the producer who made her the bona fide R&B star she is today, Sean “Puffy/P Diddy” Combs. Arguably, Combs needs the reunion more than she does—since masterminding Blige’s first two albums, What’s the 411 and My Life, his production kudos has suffered at the hands of his rapping and image, while she’s gone from strength to strength. Keen to make her sixth album an event, Puffy pulls out all the stops, dusting off his taste and imagination, and thumbing his Rolodex for a better class of guest, including Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Eve, Dr Dre and Method Man. But it’s the Blige/Combs chemistry that’s the main attraction. Blige’s lived-in gospel cry demands a superior cut of ghetto fabulous backing track, and Puffy delivers them in spades, from the vintage blaxploitation grooves of “Don’t Go”, “Press On” and “Ooh!”, to the cruising hip-hop soul of “When We” and “It’s a Wrap” and the pneumatic clatter of single “Love @ 1st Sight”.

On the downside, at 20 tracks, Love & Life is a long album, and with many songs sounding like brilliant ideas half finished, it feels even longer. Consequently, true winners are lost in the vague but pleasing mire, which marks this as a collection of stylish background music rather than the show stopping Mary J we’re used to. —Dan Gennoe

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