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CD Review: Ciara's 'Fantasy Ride' is heavy on names, not personality

05:26 PM CDT on Monday, May 4, 2009

By MARIO TARRADELL / Music Critic
mtarradell@dallasnews.com

Artist: Ciara

Album: Fantasy Ride

Grade: C

Label: LaFace

If Keyshia Cole is the new Mary J. Blige, at least from a marketing standpoint, then Ciara is today's Janet Jackson. In both cases, the original is better than the rehash.

This brings us to Austin-born Ciara's third studio effort, Fantasy Ride, which follows two very successful albums, 2004's Goodies and 2006's Ciara: The Evolution. The first thing you notice about Ride is, well, Ciara's onion-skin-thin vocals. Next to her, Jackson's a belter. Then, of course, there's the heavy production and a boatload of guest artists and producers. There are more than a dozen knob-turners and performance spots from Justin Timberlake, Ludacris, Chris Brown, Young Jeezy, The-Dream and Missy Elliott. Where is Ciara? She's chirping away, never leaving an ounce of audible personality in anything she sings.

That said, two tracks are ultra-catchy. "Love Sex Magic," featuring Timberlake, is a dance-floor corker with a wickedly hooky chorus. And "Work," with Elliott on board, is similarly club-ready. The rapid-fire "work, work, work" refrain will bond to your head as if with Krazy Glue.

The rest? Forgettable. A couple of cuts are particularly bad: "Like a Surgeon" and "G Is for Girl (A-Z)." Those titles are as lame as the songs. It's pretty amazing that Ciara has carved out a career with nothing more than a pretty face, a lithe body and a weak voice. At least Janet Jackson was once in control.

In stores Tuesday

Ben Harper and Relentless7, White Lies for Dark Times (Virgin) – Acclaimed folk-rocking singer-songwriter from California breaks in a band he formed in 2008, Relentless7, on his 13th album.

Ziggy Marley, Family Time (Tuff Gong) – Reggae star, and eldest son of late genre master Bob Marley, offers an album for kids and parents featuring guests such as Toots Hibbert, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Jack Johnson and mom Rita Marley.

Chrisette Michele, Epiphany (Island Def Jam) – Grammy-winning New York R&B singer's second studio disc, which follows her 2007 debut I Am, features production by Ne-Yo and is reportedly "more upbeat and youthful," she told Billboard magazine.

Paul Potts, Passione (Sony) – Sophomore studio album from the Britain's Got Talent winner with the stunningly operatic tenor features the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Hayley Westenra and 10 songs sung in Italian.

Tiempo Libre, Bach in Havana (Sony Classics) – Miami-based Cuban band, a Grammy-nominated ensemble of classically trained musicians, merge Afro-Cuban music with Johann Sebastian Bach on 11 songs.

Elliott Yamin, Fight for Love (Hickory Records) – Second non-holiday studio album from the American Idol finalist aims to improve on the gold-selling success of his 2007 debut by offering songs written or produced by hit-makers such as Jermaine Dupri, Stargate, JR Rotem and Midi Mafia.

Hot concert

For a real R&B singer, check out Jennifer Hudson on Thursday night at Nokia Theatre in Grand Prairie. It may be a double bill with Robin Thicke, but the night should be all about J-Hud.

Hot digital download

Starting May 15, the beginning of Coldplay's upcoming stateside tour, fans can download a free live concert CD, LeftRightLeftRight Left , at www.coldplay.com .

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