Picks and Pans Review: Timeless Journey

UPDATED 05/31/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/31/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT

Patti LaBelle

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Miss Patti's latest disc in her 42-year recording journey is her first for Def Soul Classics, a division of the leading rap label Def Jam. But don't expect LaBelle, 60, to go gangsta here. While the R&B godmother does collaborate with hip-hop duo Floetry (on the jazz-hued "Hear My Cry") and samples Nelly Furtado's "Turn Off the Light" (on the gospel-charged "Unpredictable"), she mostly displays the same old attitude she has had since the mid-'80s. The result is sophisticated but unspectacular soul that won't soon make you forget "Lady Marmalade." Of course, with her vocal heroics, LaBelle can rescue even the most mundane material (like the bland ballad "Not Right But Real"). Undiminished by the years, her peerless instrument remains a force of nature. Only a few songs, such as the inspirational, retro-'70s single "New Day," really do those pipes justice. Meanwhile, LaBelle's powerful delivery is ill-suited to "When You Smile," her salsa tribute to Celia Cruz featuring Carlos Santana on guitar and Sheila E. on percussion.

R&B

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