The title is a bit ironic. For this 13-track collection, a follow-up to Latifah’s 2004 The Dana Owens Album, she’s carrying a lot of baggage. There’s the small army of producers (with Ron Fair and Tommy LiPuma dividing 12 of the tracks and Marc Shaiman stepping in for a thirteenth) and accompanists: alternating drummers Abe Laboriel Jr., and Jeff Hamilton; four different bassists (Christian McBride among them), an equal number of keyboardists (led by George Duke, who handles piano and Rhodes duties on four tracks), five guitarists, two arrangers (Jerry Hay and John Clayton), plus enough brass, woodwinds, strings and background vocalists to fill an entire page of liner notes. There’s also the weight of history. Can a politicized rapper turned Oscar-nominated actress be taken seriously when she makes a mid-career segue into soul-infused jazz singing? Critics began sharpening their venomous darts long before the album’s late-September release.
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