By RUSSELL BAILLIE



(Herald rating: * * * * )



Occasionally an album comes along that restores one's shaky faith and guilty pleasure in blockbuster pop. The debut solo album of *N Sync's best-known face, Justin Timberlake, is one of those. It's a lavishly upholstered affair, of substantial guest list and the best - and frankly, the blackest - producers that money can buy. And the result is a vibrantly funky affair which, of course, owes more to Michael Jackson than Sony's accountants ever could.



It manages to skirt teen-pop sugariness for the most part, though it does offer quality mush on numbers such as Take It From Here. DNA tests may reveal that both Never Again and Still On My Brain contain traces of Jacko's She's Out of My Life. Likewise, Rock Your Body sounds straight from Off the Wall. But care of producers and co-writer, the Neptunes and Tim "Timbaland" Mosley, tracks such as Like I Love You, Cry Me A River and Take Me Now (featuring Janet Jackson whispering sweet nothings) gives this a funky urgency and character.

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The latter might be something that's missing from Timberlake's by-numbers lyrics and breathy limber falsetto singing. But on Right for Me he shows in case anyone thought he was a one-trick pop pony - hey, he can do a really good Prince impersonation, too.



Label: Jive