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5.0 out of 5 stars Mraz Adds Value to Hit Record, November 23, 2008
This review is from: We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things (Audio CD)
Continuing the highly criticized practice of re-releasing hit albums to increase sales, Atlantic Records gives the royal treatment this week to Jason Mraz's runaway LP "We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.," which remains high on the charts after six months, with a limited edition deluxe version.

The re-release is backed with a second disc collecting the cheekily-titled "We Sing.," "We Dance." and "We Steal Things.," three acoustic EPs he released leading up to the launch of the album containing stripped down versions of many of the tracks. The biggest asset, however, is a DVD of his performance to a sell-out crowd at Manhattan's Highline Ballroom on April 14. Many consider the rehashing of previously released material paired with new, exclusive content pure record company manipulation, and that is a valid point, but the addition of the concert alone will make this 2CD/DVD rechristening interesting for both curious casual listeners as well as the previously initiated.

And there are certainly a slew of those curiously casual with the longevity of the album's lead single "I'm Yours" serving as a barometer of public interest. The song has had an uncanny journey that began circa early 2005, when Mraz began playing the song during live set lists in spite of Atlantic's final word on not including on it on his sophomore set "Mr. A-Z." It garnered a life of its own, becoming known to scores of listeners in countries across the world on account of live recordings as well as the original demo, which found limited release on Mraz's "Extra Credit" EP.

Due to this cult popularity Mraz and Atlantic made the decision to re-record the track to be the lead single from "We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.," releasing it to radio and retail in time for Valentine's Day. Slowly but surely increasing in further popularity, it finally reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 in September, where it remains this week. That is quite a ride for one song to take.

Still, there is more meat to Mraz than "I'm Yours," and that is ably proven by the entirety of "We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things." Second single "Make It Mine," with its engulfing sing-a-long chorus, effervescent vocal performance and infectious feel good vibe is even better song than "I'm Yours," while Mraz also cuts straight to the heart of problems both at home ("Love For a Child") and abroad ("Only Human"). He also utilizes an entrancing singing/rapping style on the haunting "Dynamo of Volition." The breezy "Lucky" features Colbie Callait, while James Morrison stops in to add verses on the brooding "Details in the Fabric."

Mraz's talents only come across more strongly with the inclusion of the lo-fi acoustic disc, which brings out the essence of his songs to let them breathe, and the energetic Highline Ballroom concert proves his growing reputation as a live act to be justified. He is smart to recruit supremely talented musicians in the studio, but he outdoes his contemporaries by bringing them on the road with him as well.

Indeed, "Make It Mine" and "No Stopping Us," a slice of ear candy from his debut album, sizzle with high-octane energy courtesy of Mraz's scintillating trumpeters. Non-album track "1000 Things" invokes a lush, lullaby-like dream state, and "Fall Through Glass," a duet with Mraz's friend Bushwalla, teems with swing and intrigue. Along with Mraz's clowning stage presence and impressive vocal range, these moments creates a thoroughly unique musical experience.

To be sure, re-releases from major labels are always highly polished cash grabs, and this one is no different. However, the quality and quantity of the added material gives this one particular panache. Those who have been eyeing the album have all the more incentive now to check it out.
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