Picks and Pans Review: My Life

updated 12/05/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/05/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

Mary J. Blige

Listening for vintage musical references on this fine follow-up to Blige's double-platinum debut is like playing spot-the-cameos during a Robert Altman film. Those jazz-fusion licks on "Be with You" are as late-'70s as leisure suits with mile-wide lapels. So are the disco riffs punctuating the '90s funk-swing of "Be Happy." And that's one of Rick James's steamiest bass lines underscoring "Mary Jane."

Taking a cue from rap, Blige and her producers have piled generous helpings of classic R&B-derived styles onto sleek, modern hip-hop soul, weaving an aural quilt that's more interesting than the stock synthetic backing tracks that have become so prevalent in contemporary R&B. Never zooming into pyrotechnic overdrive, Blige has the loose vocal manner of a female rapper who was born to sing, whether she's wailing through the brassy blues of "I'm Goin' Down" or scatting up a storm near the end of "Mary Jane." She even manages to make an invitation as frighteningly hokey as "Come into ray bedroom, honey/What I got will make you spend money" sound tempting. (Uptown/MCA)

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