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The London Sessions *

Album: The London Sessions *
# Song Title   Time
1)    Therapy
2)    Doubt
3)    Not Loving You
4)    When You're Gone
5)    Right Now
6)    My Loving
7)    Long Hard Look
8)    Whole Damn Year
9)    Nobody But You
10)    Pick Me Up
11)    Follow
12)    Worth My Time
Product Details
Performer Notes
  • Photographer: Alex Lake.
  • Mary J. Blige had a productive 2014. Early in the year, she linked with Disclosure for an alternate version of the U.K. duo's "F for You" and performed with them in New York. A few months later, there was the release of the all-Blige soundtrack for the comedy Think Like a Man Too, which consisted of new material but was neither presented nor promoted like one of her standard releases. At some point, Blige signed to Capitol, and she took longtime collaborator Rodney Jerkins to England to work more with Disclosure, as well as with other emerging songwriters and producers, including Vibe cover star Sam Smith, Naughty Boy, and Emeli Sand?. The move was evidently significant enough to warrant the album's title and the placement of the collaborators' names on the cover. It's not that the changeup revitalized Blige. The London Sessions just happens to have her best round of songs, productions, and performances since The Breakthrough, the 2005 album Smith references in one of several unnecessary testimonials and interview snippets placed throughout the sequence of songs. A couple moments are stilted and there's some substandard songwriting, such as the woeful "I'll keep gettin' up, 'cause that's what I'm goin' to do/Gonna be the best me, I'm sorry if it kills you," from the otherwise fine "Doubt." The London Sessions nonetheless offers a sharp mix of duly aching ballads and substantive, highly detailed club tracks that are in the soul-rooted lineage of classics she has referenced, covered, and emulated throughout her career. Blige sounds as comfortable as ever over the scuffing percussion, prodding synthesizers, and even the noodling clarinet heard, at various points, in the likes of "Right Now," "My Loving," "Pick Me Up," and "Follow." The songs explore themes familiar to Blige's listeners, yet little is less than fresh. Among the ballads, the Sand? collaboration "Whole Damn Year" is the most striking, disarming in its depiction of recovering from emotional and physical abuse, while "Therapy," one of four songs made with Smith, is surprisingly understated, seemingly inspired more by Anthony Hamilton's Southern gospel-soul. ~ Andy Kellman
Professional Reviews
Rolling Stone - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "Disclosure take Mary to the club with deep-house grooves on 'Right Now' and 'Follow,' while the gospel-blues testimony 'Therapy' takes her to church."

Entertainment Weekly - "Her big, emotive voice jells on both the thumping Disclosure reunion 'Right Now' and 'Therapy,' a harmonious matchup with professed admirer Sam Smith." -- Grade: B+

Mojo (Publisher) (p.98) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "While THE LONDON SESSIONS takes her in fresh new directions, Blige's own identity remains the dominant flavour."

Pitchfork (Website) - "[I]t's a seamless and occasionally thrilling listen that establishes a fact many could have predicted: Blige's throaty vocals, as passionate and emotional as ever, are an ideal fit for house music."
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