POP-LATIN

All That I Am

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After the star-studded success of his 1999 comeback album Supernatural—which won nine Grammys and has sold more than 15 million copies—and its double-platinum follow-up, 2002's Shaman, Carlos Santana continues to work his collaboration magic. With guest appearances by everyone from Mary J. Blige and Steven Tyler to reggae star Sean Paul and Tex-Mex trio Los Lonely Boys, the guitar god covers the full pop spectrum on his latest. Though this cameo-heavy approach sometimes smacks more of record-company calculation than artistic inspiration—can it really be a coincidence that American Idol runner-up Bo Bice, who nicely fills the Rob Thomas slot on "Brown Skin Girl," is also on Santana's label—it's hard to argue with results that are this smooth.

First single "I'm Feeling You" finds Santana reteaming with Michelle Branch, who also sang lead vocals on the Shaman hit "The Game of Love," and their breezy duet is pleasant if predictable. Fresher and funkier is "My Man," on which Blige and OutKast's Big Boi bring out the fly guy in Santana. Even better is "Twisted," another song on which Santana explores his soulful side, as the southern-fried R&B of singer Anthony Hamilton intertwines with a sexy salsa groove. In addition to collaborations with Joss Stone ("Cry Baby Cry") and the Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am ("I Am Somebody"), the disc is rounded out by four tracks on which Santana and his like-named band fire up their trademark spicy Latin-rock jams. That's where Santana shows who he is at heart.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "Twisted"

R&B

CRITIC'S CHOICE

In This Life Together

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Aja Graydon and Fantin Dantzler, the husband-and-wife duo known as Kindred the Family Soul, take the title of their sophomore album from the 1998 memoir of longtime marrieds Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, With Ossie & Ruby: In This Life Together. And the spirit of that couple, which for 56 years stood for African-American togetherness until Davis's death last February, is carried on lovingly by this Philadelphia pair. The follow-up to their overlooked 2003 debut, Surrender to Love, finds Kindred exploring the emotional dynamics of family and long-term commitment with richly crafted R&B that harks back to the Sound of Philadelphia in the '70s. And when they do get to singing about sex, they address the realities of post-baby lovemaking on tracks like the Graydon solo “Woman First” and the playfully funky “Sneak a Freak.” They also stress the importance of individual growth on uplifting cuts like the gospel-infused “As of Yet” and the jazz-kissed “My Time,” all the while remembering the lifelong vow that they make on the sumptuous title song. Ossie and Ruby should be proud.

DOWNLOAD THIS: “My Time”

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Aja Graydon and Fantin Dantzler, the husband-and-wife duo known as Kindred the Family Soul, take the title of their sophomore album from the 1998 memoir of longtime marrieds Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, With Ossie & Ruby: In This Life Together. And the spirit of that couple, which for 56 years stood for African-American togetherness until Davis's death last February, is carried on lovingly by this Philadelphia pair. The follow-up to their overlooked 2003 debut, Surrender to Love, finds Kindred exploring the emotional dynamics of family and long-term commitment with richly crafted R&B that harks back to the Sound of Philadelphia in the '70s. And when they do get to singing about sex, they address the realities of post-baby lovemaking on tracks like the Graydon solo "Woman First" and the playfully funky "Sneak a Freak." They also stress the importance of individual growth on uplifting cuts like the gospel-infused "As of Yet" and the jazz-kissed "My Time," all the while remembering the lifelong vow that they make on the sumptuous title song. Ossie and Ruby should be proud.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "My Time"

HARD ROCK

All the Right Reasons

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Give credit to Nickelback: They know all the right moves to craft a monster mainstream-rock hit. They did it with "How You Remind Me" in 2001 and "Someday" in 2003, and they've done it again with "Photograph." The song, with its sentimental lyrics ("Look at this photograph/ Every time I do it makes me laugh/ How did our eyes get so red?/ And what the hell is on Joey's head?") and hummable hooks, is a picture-perfect candidate for Top 40 success. But it—and the rest of this Canadian quartet's fifth disc—will remind you of any of a number of post-grunge bands. It doesn't help that Chad Kroeger may be one of the most blah frontmen in rock. This is as generic as it gets.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "Photograph"

COUNTRY

HARD ROCK

Life Goes On

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Clark may have recently gotten married to her tour manager Greg Kaczor, but her new album's title doesn't suggest that she has all that much to celebrate. A song like "Everybody's Gotta Go Sometime" is much more fatalistic than you would expect a new bride to be. Overall, though, Clark hasn't lost the edge of playfulness that she has always displayed. "I Wish He'd Been Drinkin' Whiskey" is about a woman who loses her man but keeps her sense of humor. "Not Enough Tequila" falls short of Shelly West's rollicking "Jose Cuervo," but still has a lively cantina feeling. And the gracefully romantic "Travelin' Soul" is about a singer on the road and could well be taken as a love song to Kaczor.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "Travelin'Soul"

COUNTRY

Tough All Over

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The key track on this album is "Putting My Misery on Display," which is exactly what Allan does on Tough All Over. The singer's wife, Angela, committed suicide last year after a battle with depression, and from the painfully rueful "I Just Got Back from Hell" and "Life Ain't Always Beautiful" to the devoted "He Can't Quit Her" and the resigned "Puttin' Memories Away," Allan's songs address the traumatic turn his life has taken. Yet the album is never merely maudlin; Allan seems to be celebrating Angela's life as much as he is mourning her death. Still, anyone looking for a romp on the beach had best consult Kenny Chesney or Jimmy Buffett. As for Allan, he deserves a tip of your 10-gallon hat for bravely dealing with his pain.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "Life Ain't Always Beautiful"

Charlie Wilson Wilson, 52, who led his two brothers in the '80s R&B trio the Gap Band, bridges generations on his new CD Charlie, Last Name Wilson, executive-produced by R. Kelly.

ON WORKING WITH R. KELLY It was a no-brainer. I had a ball. It was crazy. R. Kelly is a true genius. There are so many other producers, but I like him because he cut his teeth on singing, like me. He knows what my vocals should sound like.

ON COLLABORATING WITH JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE The kid has a lot of soul. I think he's got a pigmentation problem. He's not really a white boy; I think he's white chocolate.

ON HIS NICKNAME "UNCLE CHARLIE" I started hanging out with Snoop in '95, '96, and I've been on just about every [Snoop] album since then. We got so close that I was like his uncle. So that's where that came from.

ON HOW HIS STAGE SHOW HAS CHANGED I look to the right, and I look to the left, and I don't see either one of my brothers. And I'm not taking my clothes off.

THE FUGEES reunite after nearly a decade apart and score with the blistering "Take It Easy," from their as-yet-untitled upcoming CD; at iTunes.com

MARIAH CAREY hits an emotional high on "Don't Forget About Us," a bonus track on which she reminisces about a lost love; at music.aol.com

THE STROKES amp up the energy on the frenetic rocker "Jukebox," from their January release First Impressions of Earth; at musicstore.real.com

JAMIE FOXX (below), reteaming with "Gold Digger" partner Kanye West, keeps the party rolling with the soulful "Extravaganza," a preview of Foxx's major-label debut, Unpredictable; at iTunes.com

For information on where to find our Download This picks, go to www.people.com/downloadthis or AOL (Keyword: People)

For information on where to find our Download This picks, go to www.people.com/downloadthis or AOL (Keyword: People)

  • Contributors:
  • Chuck Arnold,
  • Ralph Novak,
  • Tiffany McGee.