Mary J. Blige

Ballads

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Mary J. Blige's first compilation, the Japan-only Ballads, collects some of her best slow jams, spanning all of her albums, and brings them together in a cohesive whole, making for an engaging and smooth listening experience, especially for lovers of quiet storm. Some of her ballad hits are not included, most notably her biggest, "Not Gon' Cry," but then again, this isn't necessarily a hits collection (and "You Remind Me," included here, is not really a ballad). A few non-album tracks make this compilation worthwhile for the collector, most impressive among them being her stunning cover of Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed," which ranks among the best of Blige's recordings (and is completely unavailable in the U.S.). Blige's aching and tortured voice, coupled with Wonder's blissful lyrics about boundless happiness brought about by love, results in a heart-wrenching beauty of a ballad, and easily demonstrates why she is considered by many to be the most gifted American R&B singer to have emerged in the 1990s. Other treasures include her cover of "Natural Woman" from the New York Undercover soundtrack and her breezy, hip-hop-infused "Beautiful" from the soundtrack to How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Two live tracks are included, those being her duet with K-Ci Hailey, "I Don't Want to Do Anything" from Uptown MTV Unplugged, and another stunner -- her unforgettable rendition of "Misty Blue" from her live album, The Tour. This engaging collection also brings to mind that it's time for a U.S. Mary J.Blige hits compilation, and there are enough Blige non-album tracks and duets floating about to warrant a rarities collection as well.

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