With Recovery it becomes obvious that Eminem's richest albums aren't necessarily his most structurally sound, which isn't much of a surprise when considering the rapper's full-on embrace of flaws and contradictions. This lean, mean bipolar machine began life as Relapse 2, but when Shady decided he wasn't really Shady at the moment and that he was no longer keen on Relapse -- or the last two albums as he states on “Talkin' 2 Myself” -- it became Marshall Mathers time again, so damn any 11th hour issues. This results in an album where a shameless but killer Michael J. Fox punch line (“The world will stop spinnin’ and Michael J. Fox‘ll come to a standstill” from “Cold Wind”) is followed by a song with another, less effective MJF joke (“Make like Michael J. Fox in your drawers, playin' with an Etch-A-Sketch”), although that song is the lurching heavy metal monster “Won't Back Down” with P!nk, and it could be used as the lead-in to “Lose Yourself” on any ego-boosting mixtape. Following an apology for your recent work with a damnation of critics and haters is just sloppy; taking off the skits and then overstuffing your album by a track or two is undermining what's good; and the beats here are collectively just a B+ with only one production (the so good “So Bad”) coming from Dr. Dre. Add to that the detractor idea that being privy to the man's therapy sessions just isn't compelling anymore and the only persuasive moments remaining are the highlights, but fans can feed on the energy, the renewed sense of purpose, and Marshall doing whatever the hell he wants, up to and including shoehorning a grand D12-like comedy number ("W.T.P.," which stands for "White Trash Party") into this emotionally heavy album. It’s fascinating when Em admits “Hatred was flowin’ through my veins, on the verge of goin’ insane/I almost made a song dissin’ Lil Wayne” and then “Thank God I didn’t do it/I’da had my ass handed to me, and I knew it” before sparring with said Weezy on the Haddaway-sampling “No Love.” When the recovery-minded “Going Through Changes” gets back on the wagon by sampling Black Sabbath’s very druggy “Changes” it’s a brilliant and layered idea that’s executed with poignant lyrics on top. Add the man at his most profound (the gigantic hit “Not Afraid”) and his most profane (“You wanna get graphic? We can go the scenic route/You couldn’t make a bulimic puke on a piece of corn and peanut poop” from “On Fire”) plus one of thickest lyric booklets out of any of his albums and the fans who really listen are instantly on board. It may be flawed and the rapper’s attitude is sometimes one step ahead of his output, but he hasn’t sounded this unfiltered and proud since The Marshall Mathers LP, so to hell with refinement -- bring on the hunger and spirit of 8 Mile.
by David Jeffries