Review: Calvin Harris gets some starry help on terrific CD

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Posted: Jun 30, 2017 4:21 PM
Review: Calvin Harris gets some starry help on terrific CD

Calvin Harris, "Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1" (Columbia Records)

A photo of a sun-kissed, empty beach is on the front of DJ/producer Calvin Harris' new CD and there's a palm tree on the back. That's appropriate for what is a strong contender for album of the summer.

The 10-track "Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1" is a slick triumph for Harris, who has brought 21 of his superstar friends along to make a CD as cool as a Popsicle and as sticky as a pool-side cocktail. "Release, let go, and have a good time," is a lyric that sums up the record.

It kicks off with "Slide," featuring a moody Frank Ocean and the hotter-than-hot group Migos. The gorgeously layered song signals Harris is pushing beyond previous club hits like "This Is What You Came For."

If we're judged by the company we keep, then Harris is a musical magnet. In addition to Migos and Ocean, the album also features Future, Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, Big Sean, John Legend, Khalid, Nicki Minaj, Travis Scott, Lil Yachty, Young Thug, Snoop Dogg and two appearances by Pharrell Williams.

An album with so many guests would presumably topple over, but somehow Harris weaves all the voices, styles and grooves into a coherent, breezy hip-hop and EDM tapestry. It recalls Moby's 1999 monster hit-collection "Play" — the last time an insular techno techie became a bona fide music god.

"Heatstroke," with Grande turning her angel voice up to 11, is pure shimmering pop, and "Rollin" is a hypnotic slow jam, combining Khalid's soulfulness, Future's unique rap style and little electronic shards that Harris scatters across the album. Minaj goes Caribbean flirty in "Skrt On Me," and Jessie Reyez turns in a great "Hard to Love."

Perry's appearance on "Feels" seems destined to continue the Great Feud of Our Age, namely the beef between her and Taylor Swift. Harris is an ex-boyfriend of Swift's and the reggae-flavored song seems to throw shade on a pill-popping, emotionless bed jumper. One line goes: "Goddamn, I know you love to make an entrance/Do you like getting paid or getting paid attention?" Meow.

Yes, the CD has a curious title. But at least it offers some hope — that there's a Vol. 2.

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits