Hip-hop beatmaster Timbaland's record as a producer is unparalleled for sheer bulk of hits and unstinting quality, but his track record as a performer, to put it charitably, is mixed (although 1998's "Welcome to Our World" contains some of his best production work).
The pride of Virginia Beach has not turned himself into Jay-Z on his solid if unspectacular new album, "Timbaland Presents Shock Value," but Timothy Mosley, wise enough to know his limitations, turns over the bulk of his album to guest stars. As would be expected from a producer as beloved and well-connected as Timbaland, the guest list is star-studded. But it is also a bit peculiar. Missy Elliott, of course. Justin Timberlake, surely. But the Hives? Fall Out Boy? (Lord help me) Elton John?
Surprisingly, it is the mash ups that are the most successful, with Timbaland taking emo and piano rock under his capacious wing. These experimental efforts are crammed into the last third of "Shock Value," which is front-loaded with radio-friendly hip-hop tracks. After a torrid start with the remarkable "Oh Timbaland" -- in which the producer samples Nina Simone's "Sinnerman," tweaking Simone's voice to substitute his name for the song's title -- the next batch of songs are occasionally thrilling but mostly familiar takes on Timbaland's hip-hop-pop formula.
"Shock Value" does not truly let loose until "Bombay," which revisits Timbaland's brief fascination with Indian film music a few years back. With the floodgates having been opened to the world, it is the rockers who show up next, with Howlin' Pelle Almqvist's shrieks animating "Throw It on Me," and indie rock-rap hybrid She Wants Revenge turning "Time" into a dirgey lost track from Interpol's "Antics."
Timbaland has always been more comfortable with tweaking the mainstream than messing around at the margins, and so the most successful mash up is the Fall Out Boy collaboration "One and Only," which manages to simultaneously be a lighter-waving emo anthem and a Timbaland gem in the vein of Aaliyah's "We Need a Resolution." On "2 Man Show," even Sir Elton gets into the mix, dropping some lovely piano (but no vocals).
Timbaland may not be able to reinvent rock in the same way he has turned hip-hop into his own personal fiefdom, but having conquered one mountain, "Shock Value" is evidence that Timbaland is more than up to the challenge of giving rock a hip-hop soul. Now, if we could only pair him up with My Chemical Romance . . .