One of the finest singers in R&B today, Mary J. Blige has a voice that is both powerful and adaptable. This latest effort is her best yet, an album full of great contemporary R&B with hip-hop influences once again prominent.
Opening with the an intro featuring superstars Jay-Z and P.Diddy we are then treated to the beautiful "Don't Go", in which Mary begs "sometimes I say things to hurt you, but please don't go" - and we the listener are not going anywhere though as we are soon treated to a banging Dr Dre beat on "Not Today" with bad girl Eve in full effect. "Ooh" cleverly samples seventies funk artist Hamilton Bohannon, with P.Diddy showing his ear for a great loop. Next up current gangster rap don 50 Cent gets involved in a bit of call and response with Blige on "Let Me Be The 1" before the excellent lead single "Love @ 1st Sight" drops with a typically brilliant rap from Method Man and the beat built around "Hot Sex" by A Tribe Called Quest. "Friends" features strings arranged by Larry Gold, live instrumentation and a Barry White sample while "All My Love" and "Special Part Of Me" also standout.
Blige sounds in fantastic voice throughout the 19 songs, which suits the sexy new image being promoted, and as an elder in an R&B world dominated by Beyonce, Ashanti and the like, 'Love & Life' proves a point - she is still the undisputed queen of R&B. A very fine album indeed. Recommended.