Other than a handful of one-offs, producer, composer, and arranger Quincy Jones has been busy outside of the music world, acting as a film producer and a cultural ambassador. Q: Soul Bossa Nostra is his first proper "new" album in 15 years, though it revisits tracks he either composed, recorded, or produced previously with a host of the current era's most popular artists from the R&B, pop, and hip-hop worlds. Given his rep, the star power here is not surprising, but re-recording classic songs with new singers -- or in some cases adding vocals to a track that never had them at all -- is risky. Soul Boss Nostra feels like a tribute exercise -- assembled more for radio play and to attract the holiday and single-track download markets -- than a creative one. One need only go to the remake of Shuggie Otis' classic "Strawberry Letter 23," which Jones produced for the Brothers Johnson in 1977. The vocal and production by Akon employ shimmering, slippery hip-hop rhythms, Auto-Tune, and layers of programmed keyboards and backing vocals, without the tune's signature bassline! It's thin and hollow. The oft-sampled hit "Soul Bossa Nova" appears here as a collaboration between Naturally 7 and Ludacris (who has sampled it himself). Jones' new arrangement is streamlined; it lacks the dynamic punch and humor of the hit. Q composed "Ironside" for the '70s television series; he uses the original orchestral and vocal tracks with a rap by Talib Kweli on top. It's better, but still feels disconnected. Why Jones re-arranged and re-corded "Tomorrow" with John Legend is a mystery; this version is void of the warmth of Tevin Campbell's from 1990. Campbell is here on a remake of Al B. Sure/Barry White track "Secret Garden" that keeps White's original vocal, and adds Campbell's with Robin Thicke, LL Cool J, Usher, and Tyrese. It is utter lacking in finesse or emotion. "Get the Funk Out of My Face," with Snoop Dogg, at least retains the Brothers Johnson feel; his rap almost works. "P.Y.T." is remade here by T-Pain and Thicke with so much Auto-Tune, it sounds like a cartoon soundtrack. Amy Winehouse's remake of "It's My Party" (which Jones produced for Lesley Gore in 1962), is tepid. Bebe Winans' reading of "Everything Must Change" is easily the set's classiest, most soulful track; it stands out beautifully from the dross. Given Jones' legendary stature and reputation for taste, this set feels unnecessary at best, and downright cynical at worst.
Q: Soul Bossa Nostra Review
by Thom Jurek