On paper, rap icon Queen Latifah's first full-length album as a singer might seem incongruous—especially since the soul, blues and pop tunes she emotes are a far cry from her seminal 1989 album

On paper, rap icon Queen Latifah's first full-length album as a singer might seem incongruous—especially since the soul, blues and pop tunes she emotes are a far cry from her seminal 1989 album, "All Hail the Queen." But before her Academy Award-nominated turn as the singing Mama Morton in "Chicago," the Queen displayed her vocal prowess on the 1998 soundtrack to the movie "Living Out Loud," in which she co-starred with Holly Hunter and Danny DeVito. In fact, that album's version of "Lush Life" appears here along with other familiar tunes that have influenced Latifah artistically and emotionally. Her warm, jazz-inflected voice credibly reinterprets the aforementioned Billy Strayhorn classic as well as "Hard Times" (Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band) and "Baby Get Lost" (Dinah Washington). The real ear-opener is her rendition of Al Green's "Simply Beautiful," featuring the man himself.—GM