Abdul Doesn’t Stray Far From Pop Formula
“Head Over Heels” - Virgin
With a single in the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 and her face on high-profile magazines and TV shows, Paula Abdul seems headed for the heights of the charts after a yearlong recording hiatus. The first single, “My Love Is For Real,” is the album’s most adventurous work, featuring Middle-Eastern sitar work and the irresistible vocalizing of Israeli diva Ofra Haza. Elsewhere on the album Abdul sticks to the tried-and-true pop formula that has made her a chart-topping artist.
“When and Where” - Atlantic
Lead vocalist Danny Shirley has one of those wonderful, lived-in voices that sounds equally effective on poignant ballads like “Right Track Wrong Train” and blue-collar anthems like “Toss A Little Bone.” The group’s latest Atlantic outing is chock-full of everything fans have come to expect, including the feisty title cut, the touching “When He Was My Age” and the good-time fun of “Bill’s Laundromat, Bar And Grill.” A satisfying country outing from a group that exudes downhome personality on every track.
“Pavarotti & Friends 2” - London
It is unfortunate that some of the biggest names in the classical, pop and new age worlds - Luciano Pavarotti, Bryan Adams, Andrea Bocelli, Giorgia, Nancy Gustafson, Michael Kamen and Andreas Vollenweider - felt the need to collaborate on a project that has no apparent musical motive. With glaringly incompatible voices, Pavarotti and Adams duet on the classic “O Sole Mio” and the rocker’s “All For Love,” and the rest of the cast, in various combinations, collaborate on equally pallid performances. Far from the meeting of musical cultures it purports to be, “Pavarotti & Friends 2” comes across as an opportunistic marketing ploy.
“Tigerlily” - Elektra
Ex-leader of 10,000 Maniacs steps out on her own with a solo debut that will appeal to fans of that New York state alternative rock outfit (which is continuing without her). More pianooriented and reflective than the Maniacs’ guitar-dominated, poprock sound, Merchant’s solo work spotlights her well-thought-out lyrics and absorbing vocal style. Although the album’s many slow numbers lack sizzle, its more spirited tunes include “Carnival,” “San Andreas Fault,” “Where I Go,” and “Jealousy.” An album that reinforces Merchant’s appeal as a songwriter, singer and band leader.
“Post” - Elektra
The former front woman of Icelandic alternative rock icons the Sugarcubes keeps up her considerable momentum as a solo artist with a second collection of first-rate songs that are as adventurous as they are accessible. Working with such street-savvy musical scene makers as Nellee Hooper, Tricky and Marius De Vries, Bjork crafts a flawless album of rich grooves punctuated by her incisive vocal delivery. Most compelling moments are heavy opener “Army Of Me,” delightfully airy “Isobel,” and Bjork’s surprisingly effective big-band performance of “It’s Oh So Quiet.”
“The Funky Descendant” - Capitol
Artist writes, produces, and performs on diverse project consisting of wicked hip-hop/jazz treasures, along with warmly written and richly arranged contemporary and classic R&B; ballads, as well as thick, midtempo g-funk. String arrangements on various selections add spice to set’s cool, laid-back demeanor and are paced by Hami’s unforced fusion of European classical music with contemporary AfricanAmerican stylings. Set is eclectic consumers’ delight.
Show & A.G.
“Goodfellas” - Payday
Group consists of two of New York’s finest practitioners of hard-edged rap. They graft flavorful, exciting rhymes onto heavy tracks of moody, nimble, boulevard bounce. Their style scheme is devoid of cheap gimmicks or evil hard-rockisms.