TimelessConcord Records/Hear Music
Sergio Mendes' Timeless is destined to get airplay on adult contemporary stations and in lounges the world over. At the very least, it should convince people that Will.I.Am — in spite of his infamy as the leader of the Black Eyed Peas — is a pretty good record producer. He efficiently remixes Mendes' old Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 hits, fortifying each bossa nova original with a kick drum and supple yet light bass. Many of the songs, particularly the breezy "Mas Que Nada," are sunny classics on their own, and Will doesn't tamper with them much. Instead, he invites some famous friends to jam alongside him. Justin Timberlake, John Legend, Pharoahe Monch, Black Thought, Mr. Vegas, Jill Scott ... they're all riffing over vintage Mendes.
Timeless sounds best during its first half, when Will's vocal presence is particularly felt. It's not as if he's saying anything particularly interesting: "The Frog," where he pairs with Q-Tip for some disposable mack verses, is particularly innocuous. But at least he brings a cohesion that dissipates in the second half, when high-powered guest stars overrun the disc, ironically making each song indistinguishable from the other.
Then again, Brasil '66, an icon of '60s lounge culture, is best heard in short, pleasing bursts; over time, it can sound too cloying and sickly sweet. Despite a few piano solos (most notably on the Timberlake-led "Loose Ends"), Mendes is an invisible presence on his own comeback album. His songs and their polarizing qualities, however, are part and parcel of Timeless' patchwork.