I like things a little ragged. When J5 was a ragtag crew with nothing but heart, when MCs were sometimes falling off the beat and the production values were low, they had room to stretch out and try things. That's important when you're as big as Chali 2na, the group's enormous bass with metered flow. Feedback is careful, a little slick and shiny, a little cramped for talent this large. Cut Chemist skipped out on this one, too, so the beats seem bland. Still, Dave Matthews doesn't foul things up too badly on his guest track, and J5 seems as friendly and positive as it ever was.
"Kill it, kill it, and bring it back to life," says G Love on "Free," and that's exactly what he's done--murdered his sound, only to resurrect it, clean and rot-free. Old fans, the ones who've been with G Love since the early or mid ’90s, might not appreciate the change. But it's hard to begrudge G Love for shaking off the dust on his more pop-friendly tunes when he does it so well. Listeners who found the disc because it was mentioned on Jack Johnson's website better be floored. G Love's skill can mince Johnson's to mere morsels in just one bite.
Someone of my generation was spinning the latest from Barney & Friends for their newborn when lightning struck. "Man," this mamma said to herself. "I really hate this shit. Too bad junior doesn't crash out to ‘Master of Puppets.’" Glockenspiels, vibraphones, harps and bells class up and mellow out familiar tunes like "Fade to Black," "And Justice For All" and "The Unforgiven." It's a golden idea for aging rockers who won't subject themselves to one more kiddie song. The arrangements are pleasant and familiar but might be weak tea if you're yearning for the originals. Maybe it's time junior learned to really headbang, anyway.