|Queen Latifah. (Lucas Jackson/ Reuters)|
ESSENTIAL “Over the Mountain’’
Queen Latifah puts the torch songs aside and aims at burning up the clubs with this set of tuneful, briskly executed songs, almost exclusively produced by the superb Cool & Dre.
It’s a somewhat odd disc, though, as many of these tracks could have been sung by any contemporary one-named club diva. The difference is that Latifah can actually sing. What she doesn’t do is show quite enough of that charm and attitude that have made her an icon of self-empowerment and queen of various media.
Only a few songs, including the reflective “People’’ with Mary J. Blige wailing the hook, and “Over the Mountain’’ show some real introspection and depth. Latifah does very little rapping, and when she does it’s rudimentary stuff. She does shine on the defiant “Long Ass Week,’’ though.
There are a number of very strong cuts, including the thumping “Fast Car’’ with a typically cheeky turn from Missy Elliott (where’s your new album, Ms. Elliott?). Marsha Ambrosius, formerly of Floetry, pretty much carries the weight of “Take Me Away (With You),’’ but it’s a delicious song despite the rote sentiments. “Hard to Love Ya’’ allows Latifah room to breathe, but it’s crowded by Shawn Stockman prominently singing the hook and Busta Rhymes dropping a verse. The bad missteps are rare but egregious, especially “Cue the Rain,’’ which mangles Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.’’ Queen, don’t mess with royalty.
For all the pleasures, Latifah sounds too guarded. She reveals more shilling for shedding pounds. More personality in “Persona,’’ please. (Out tomorrow) -- KEN CAPOBIANCO