Published October 23, 2003.Mary J. BligeLove & Life (Geffen)A variety show feel dominates the early part of this album. A couple of winners emerge in the deluge of rappers preening in cameo: “Not Today” with Eve and “Love at First Sight” with Method Man. Blige’s unique sense of combining old grit and new bling make her the best thing on every track, as much a glowing presence as a belter or composer. A new introspection and serenity are more abundant here than might be desired by fans, but Blige is recharged for a long haul as queen of hip-hop soul. —Doug Taylor

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