|Recording information: 2nd Floor Studios, CA; Circle House Recording Studio, Miami, FL; Jungle City Studios, NYC; Kensaltown Studios, London; Marvin's Room Studios, W. Hollywood, CA; MSR Studios, New York, NY; Parkland Playhouse, Broward County; Platinum Sound Recording Studio, NYC; Triangle Sound Studios West, Encino, CA.
|Intro excepted, a devout Mary J. Blige fan could listen to these 70 minutes of music as an untitled album and never think of it as a sequel to 1994's My Life. Technically titled My Life II...The Journey Continues (Act 1) -- yes, it's the first act of a continuation -- it's more the successor to Blige's previous album, Stronger with Each Tear. Blige is in a much different, presumably much better place now than she was when she made the turbulent My Life. That album has one guest who appears during a half-minute interlude; there really isn't much room for any other voice. My Life II, like Stronger, is more like My Life and Those of Others Who Join Me, as it is it involves a succession of high-profile guests: Nas, Busta Rhymes, Drake, Rick Ross, Beyonc?, Diddy, and Lil Wayne. Those who are hoping for something in the spirit of mid-`90s Blige might be disappointed and think of the title as a ploy, but those who expect a wide variety of material in terms of style and mood will get precisely that. The first half contains several uplifting, upbeat numbers, including a muscular cover of Rufus & Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody," where producer Rodney Jerkins seems to have placed the synthesizer bass from Ren? & Angela's "I'll Be Good" in a deep fryer. Chest-beating pleader "25/8" clearly aims for classic status with a Gamble/Huff sample. The second half is heavy on ballads. ~ Andy Kellman