Other pop CDs: Mary J Blige | Jeffrey & Jack Lewis | Brian Wilson | Kate & Anna McGarrigle

Other pop CDs: Mary J Blige | Jeffrey & Jack Lewis | Brian Wilson | Kate & Anna McGarrigle

Mary J Blige
The Breakthrough

Mary J Blige is the undisputed queen of hard-edged soul. This is thanks to her big voice, a tough youth in Yonkers and her trials at the hands of men and the ghetto lifestyle, which have been detailed over eight successful albums. As with most of her works, there are a handful of compelling tracks on The Breakthrough, but they come mired in a great slick of woman-wronged sludge. Stand-outs this time include the Rodney Jerkins-produced drama of 'Enough Cryin', and the pointed hip-hop soul of 'Ain't Really Love'. But it's typical that her vocal grafted onto The Game's 'Love It or Hate It' beats much of her own stuff. Blige is best when she doesn't mince her words ('You said you never had these problems from a white chick') but she settles into sentimentality. Still, U2 turn up with their song 'One', and you're grateful for the change of pace, even if the duet is the kind of cosy superstar collaboration that punk rock was invented to destroy.

Jeffrey & Jack Lewis
City & Eastern Songs
(Rough Trade)

Critics fling epithets such as 'the new Dylan' around too lightly these days. It devalues the praise that New York anti-folk troubadour Jeffrey Lewis is steadily accruing. Lewis is a cartoonist, raconteur and scathing wit, whose deadpan delivery and tales from the scenester underbelly won't be for everyone. But his love songs are raw with tenderness and the realpolitik of relationships. The excellent 'Don't Be Upset' pegs him as an indie Leonard Cohen. There are wry laughs too on his five-minute anti-ballad, 'Willamsburg Will Oldham Horror'; Lewis corners the great man to ask him whether it's worth being an artist, and gets an answer he didn't expect. With a couple of solo acoustic albums under his belt, this is Lewis's first proper studio record. Recorded by lo-fi legend Kramer, the band setting proves Lewis's versatility, but his most direct stuff remains his best.

Brian Wilson
What I Really Want for Christmas

Kate & Anna McGarrigle
The McGarrigle Christmas Hour

The creative rebirth of Brian Wilson was some of the gladdest musical news of recent times. It's easy to forget, though, with all the tributes that issued forth, that the sweet-natured Wilson has a cheesy streak a mile wide. Hence this Christmas album, replete with harmonies, carols and Wilson originals, that is gaudier and more insubstantial than a vat of tinsel.

Before Slade cornered the market in lubricated Christmas bellowing, there was a more tuneful time when families sang together. Or maybe that was just the McGarrigle clan. The Canadian folk siren sisters rope in children (Rufus and Martha Wainwright), nieces, nephews and Emmylou Harris for a more old-fashioned sing-song. The pictures of the family skiing are cute, too, and the reminiscences in the sleevenotes will have you snuffling into your mulled wine.

Best of the rest

Various artists
Hello Children Everywhere

Britain fetishises its broadcast past like no other nation. This compilation of children's radio classics from the Fifties onwards is guaranteed to make Baby Boomers even more nostalgic than ever.


Kitty Empire

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
CD: Mary J Blige, The Breakthrough


Caroline Sullivan

09, Dec, 2005 @1:47 AM

Soundtrack of my life: Mary J Blige

The R&B star tells Will Hodgkinson why Chaka Khan is just timeless and that, Amy aside, soul's new school can't compare

Will Hodgkinson

16, Mar, 2008 @12:11 AM

Other pop

Other pop: Mariah Carey | Do Me Bad Things | Garbage | Loudon Wainwright III | Saul Williams

Kitty Empire

10, Apr, 2005 @1:03 AM

Other pop and jazz DVDs: Mar 25

Awesome Color | Macy Gray | Good Shoes | Deerhunter | Devon Sproule | Quentin Collins

25, Mar, 2007 @12:06 AM

Mary J Blige, O2 Arena, London

O2 Arena, London

Betty Clarke

05, Jun, 2008 @11:05 PM

Article image
Mary J Blige, Wembley Arena, London

Wembley Arena, London

Sophie Heawood

19, Jun, 2006 @1:19 PM

Other pop, world and jazz CD releases

Mariah Carey | Blood Red Shoes | New Orleans Funk Vol 2 | Dawn Kinnard | In the Name of Love, Africa Celebrates U2 | Deirdre Cartwright Group

12, Apr, 2008 @11:10 PM

Article image
Mary J Blige: A Mary Christmas – review
Despite being delivered with gusto and dazzling technique, the music fails to deviate from the X Factor formula, writes Tim Jonze

Tim Jonze

12, Dec, 2013 @9:15 PM

Article image
Mary J Blige/ Chaka Khan, Arena, Manchester

Arena, Manchester

Dave Simpson

16, Jun, 2004 @1:52 PM

Article image
Mary J Blige: The London Sessions review – heartfelt and classy
The American soul diva delivers a charmed collaboration with the best of British, writes Ally Carnwath

Ally Carnwath

23, Nov, 2014 @12:05 AM