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Mary J Blige - Reflections: A Retrospective

Mary J Blige, Reflections

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THREE time Grammy winner Mary J Blige releases her long overdue greatest hits collection Reflections – A Retrospective and serves a telling reminder of why she has been considered the queen of contemporary soul music for so long.

The album marks her first release since 2005’s The Breakthrough, which has sold over three million copies, and chronicles the work from the nine albums she has released throughout her 14-year career.

It takes the listener on a journey from her childhood in the projects of Yonkers, New York, to her early successes that were plagued with drama, right through to her current position at the forefront of modern soul music.

Throughout, it showcases the singer’s remarkable ability to convey heartache and happiness in a single musical phrase, as well as those silky smooth vocals that combine rough and ready with sweet and pure.

A confessional singer, Blige brings an emotional honesty to her music that has won her countless plaudits and many, many friends – both professional and in terms of the public. Her profile is such that she has regularly collaborated with some of the leading names in the industry, such as Sting, Eric Clapton, Aretha Franklin, Method Man, Nas and Jay-Z – not to mention U2 on their recent collaboration, One.

That track is one of many highlights on this retrospective – her powerful vocals striking sparks off Bono’s to create an interesting alternative to a timeless classic.

Further highlights include the emotionally-charged No More Drama, which still rates as one of her finest moments, 911, a passionate duet with ex-Fugees founder Wyclef Jean and King & Queen, a really classy duet with another smooth cronner, John Legend.

Family Affair is another instantly recognisable gem, while there’s a funky bassline strut surrounding Be Happy that marks the artist at her most laidback and happily soulful.

I’ll Be There For You/You’re All I Need, featuring Method Man, is an incendiary mix of Blige’s soulful delivery and Method Man’s harder rap that works far better than her pairing with George Michael on As – one of only a handful of disappointments that sounds way too geared to the mainstream.

Rounding the album off, however, is another highlight in the form of MJB DA MVP, her Motown-influenced duet with 50 Cent, that emerges as another triumphant blast of hip-hop informed R’n‘B soul. The track is a real dancefloor groover that drops an incredibly sassy brass section reminiscent of the good ‘ol days. It’s actually a mini-autobiographical reflection on her glorious career to date that looks set to herald an equally exciting new era for her.

It’s worth noting that Blige is a tireless charity worker as well as a committed musician. In addition to filming anti-drug PSAs, she has worked with various education groups and received Rock the Vote’s highest honour, the Patrick Lippert Award. She is also a tireless fundraiser for people with AIDs.

Her retrospective is a fine collection of work that offers a welcome reminder of her past achievements.

Track listing:

  1. Reflections (I Remember)
  2. We Ride (I See The Future)
  3. You Know
  4. King & Queen – Duet With John Legend
  5. No More Drama
  6. Family Affair
  7. Real Love
  8. No One Will Do
  9. Be Without You
  10. I’m Going Down
  11. 911 – Duet With Wyclef
  12. Not Gon’ Cry
  13. My Life ’06
  14. Be Happy
  15. I’ll Be There For You / You’re All I Need To Get By – Feat. Method Man [Razor Sharp Mix]
  16. As – With George Michael
  17. One – With U2
  18. MJB Da MVP