This is what it sounds like when an artist dabbles in a variety of styles on an album and doesn't really commit to any one of them.
Candy Dulfer has nothing to prove to anyone, especially any stuffy old jazz critics. She's blonde, hot, and knows her chops on the alto saxophone like a butcher knows his cuts of pork. So why is Candy Store so distressingly ordinary? Maybe because, like her frequent band mate Prince, Dulfer does a lot of things well, but sounds like she's just running through her repertoire, hoping that if she throws enough rap here and funk there against the wall, something will stick.
Chance Howard's rap on the lead-off, "Candy," is cringe-inducing. Jazz aficionados aren't the biggest rap fans in the world. In fact, many of them opt for jazz just to get away from the pervasiveness of rap. They aren't likely to be impressed much when Howard snarls, "We just gettin' started up in this bitch." Uh, sure thing, Chance.
The sequencing of an album can be its downfall or its saving grace. The first three tracks on Candy Store consist of pseudo-rap ("Candy"), bland smooth jazz noodling ("L.A. City Lights") and limp-as-cooked-linguine, tinker-toy soul music ("Music=Love"). A special demerit goes out to "Music=Love," courtesy of Howard's Bootsy Collins style intro rap.
Things pick up with the Latin-by-way-of-Denmark "La Cabana," which features a not half-bad horn arrangement and, thankfully, no rapping. The following "11:58" pushes Dulfer's alto sax up front and is easily one of the high watermarks of the album. Unfortunately, "Summertime" is aimed at the party crowd, which isn't the target demographic likely to pick up Candy Store. Dulfer's vocals on "Summertime" are adequately pleasant, if not overwhelming.
The latter half of the album allows Dulfer to just play, and represents where she really shines as something more than just a pretty blond playing saxophone. "Smokin' Gun" isn't reggae. Not even close, but it is pretty funky and employs a horn arrangement by Dulfer and Jan van Duikeren that is right in the pocket.
"If I Ruled the World" is proof that, as a rapper, Chance Howard is a pretty good bassist. Dulfer's band features her longtime collaborators, Ulco Bed on guitar and Thomas Bank on keyboards, though they stay in the background here.
Candy Store showcases Dulfer's diversity as a musician, but like most assortments of candy, you're going to have to find your way through the sour to get to the sweet.
Track Listing: Candy; L.A. City Lights; Music=Love; La Cabana; 11:58; Summertime; Soulsax; Smokin' Gun; Back to Juan; If I Ruled the World; Everytime; Finsbury Park Cafe 67 (2007 version).
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