In her seventh full-length album, British soul singer Joss Stone catches reggae fever.
It has taken her four years to put out Water For Your Soul, at the urging of Damian Marley, the youngest son of the late reggae legend Bob Marley.
Stone and Marley were previously in SuperHeavy, an epic but short-lived band of heavyweights that also included The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart from Eurythmics and Indian composer A.R. Rahman.
Stone tries to emulate the SuperHeavy sound with the help of Marley.
Reggae fans will appreciate the effort and the songs will get some hips shaking this summer.
WATER FOR YOUR SOUL
But the fit is somewhat awkward. While she gets the basic beat of reggae down pat on tracks such as Cut The Line and ups the tempo on the catchy Molly Town, the genre feels like a mismatch for her R&B style, even if both share the same roots.
The effect is middling: Some songs are catchy but have forgettable lyrics.
Heavy reggae influence aside, the album is a whirl of urban music influences over 14 tracks, from Spanish guitar twangs on Let Me Breathe to Indian instruments such as the sitar and tabla.
Still, Stone, who is in the league of British soul queens Adele and Amy Winehouse - though without the same commercial success - does not discount on her vocal technique. That deep soul voice is still as consistent as ever.
Natasha Ann Zachariah
SHAKE IT: 3RD MINI ALBUM
K-pop girl group Sistar are almost synonymous with summer.
The sunshine hot pants-wearing quartet released a groovy dance number Shake It last month, adding to their summer hits Touch My Body (2014), I Swear (2014) and Loving U (2012).
I get this deja vu feeling when listening to the title track Shake It.
Like Touch My Body, Shake It is a catchy piece of bubblegum pop that is filled with funky brass beats and catchy hooks.
Why change a tried-and-tested formula or, in this case, a tune? Both earworms are chart-toppers and are still on my music playlist.
The rest of the mini album, sadly, isn't as addictive or memorable.
Still, powerhouse belter Hyolyn's solid vocals make the tunes a good listen.
Her alluring raspy voice oozes sultry appeal in the sensuous track Don't Be Such A Baby.
On the same track, there are two rap segments performed separately by Sistar's Bora and rapper Giriboy.
Sistar's assigned rapper Bora comes across as simply reciting the lyrics at fast speed. She lacks the rhythm and flow of Giriboy's rapping.
Her unfortunate fate is not uncommon in the world of K-pop. Often, pretty faces are relegated to filling up the spot of the token rapper.
Perhaps, Bora should sing a tune next summer.
Brahms & Bruch Violin Concertos
David Garrett, Violin Israel Philharmonic/Zubin Mehta
After several years of successfully dabbling in crossover and pop music, the German-American former wunderkind David Garrett has returned to the classical fold with this new recording of Bruch's First Violin Concerto and Brahms' Violin Concerto.
Some might argue he never actually left, as he shows utmost respect to these classics by playing as they were written.
There are no histrionics, ear- catching gimmicks or untoward gestures - just good solid playing with beauty of tone and the right quantum of passionate output.
Both concertos share the imprimatur of the great Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim, who advised the composers on the intricacies of writing idiomatically for the violin. The only departure Garrett takes is in eschewing Joachim's cadenza for the first movement of the Brahms, opting for Fritz Kreisler's less opulent and more acrobatic and contrapuntal version instead.
The Israel Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta's direction provides excellent support, which makes this coupling a competitive one.
The Deluxe Edition includes a bonus 24-minute-long DVD feature on The Making Of Timeless. Graced by Garrett's male model- like presence, this will no doubt please his legion of fans.
Chang Tou Liang
Camerata Nordica/ Terje Tonnesen
One might baulk at the thought of listening to 69 minutes of modern string music uninterrupted, but the variety provided by the Swedish string ensemble Camerata Nordica is rather special. The two main works are Russian violist-conductor Rudolf Barshai's idiomatic arrangements of Prokofiev's Visions Fugitives and Bartok's Divertimento.
A full gamut of string effects colours Prokofiev's 15 miniatures, which are more like preludes but each imbued with a distinct character of its own. Its title comes from a line by Russian poet Konstantin Balmont, which refers to worlds of "fleeting glimpses".
Bartok's masterpiece is strongly based on folk influences and the string ensemble comes to sound like one large gypsy band, fuelled by the acerbic harmonies and driving rhythms of the Hungarian nationalist composer.
The performances, full of cohesion, coherence and incisiveness, make for a revelatory and even enjoyable aural experience.
Chang Tou Liang