Norman Cook, a.k.a. Fatboy Slim, is no dummy. "The Rockafeller Skank" and "Praise You," brilliant fusions of dance-floor whomp and pop smarts, were monster hits because of their vocal hooks. Every track on "Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars" sports vocal samples or live vocalists. The hybrid will likely be Cook's biggest album yet, though it doesn't always balance its weight well.
The gospel-preacher sound bites of "Drop the Hate" will have the faithful handspringing down the aisles, while "Sunset (Bird of Prey)" boasts Jim Morrison crooning "bird of prey/flying high" over the tranciest Cook track to date. Still, making room for all these voices somewhat hobbles Cook's slice-and-dice dash -- the cartoon big beat of his "Better Living Through Chemistry" days sounds positively complex in comparison.
Of the two Macy Gray tracks, "Demons" is a a funky hand-waver. But the horny "Lovelife" loses pressure when Gray coyly works her way through the alphabet only to chant the silly line, "I wanna 'F' you." It's a case of can't-say-it-can't-do-it. That's what happens when you go halfway.