Album review: Norah Jones’ ’...Featuring’
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Let’s cut straight to the chase: Rarely has a record come out that’s more of a naked bid for holiday-centric impulse buys than Norah Jones’ “… Featuring.” But, to the singer’s resilient credit, it’s not likely to disappoint anyone who’s on the receiving end of those panicked purchases.
With conspirators as varied as Q-Tip, Willie Nelson and the Foo Fighters, “… Featuring” shows off the singer’s supple versatility. A collection of duets and collaborations recorded from 2001 to 2010, the mood swings from pluckish country to cool-toned hip-hop to a delicately moody take on Joni Mitchell’s “Court and Spark” with Herbie Hancock.
On “More Than This,” Jones slips and slides her voice all around, taking her sweet time with the song’s cadences, showing exactly how she’s become one of pop’s reigning chanteuses. It’s hard to out-silk Bryan Ferry, who cut the original track with Roxy Music, but Jones nips at his ever-classy heels, adding a certain appealing rawness to the top of her tone.
The advantages and drawbacks of a singer like Jones are akin to those of Meryl Streep, the great Oscar magnet of Hollywood. She will always turn in a stellar performance, even if it’s just a walk-on, but can such a known entity ever really surprise? “…Featuring” doesn’t really turn over any new rocks in the Zen garden of Jones’ voice, perpetually in repose. It only reinforces her power over and over again -- but it’s hard to complain when her vocal prowess is so refined.
-- Margaret Wappler
EMI Blue Note