Poor Clint Black. His girlfriend left him, his car keeps breaking down, and he's so worn out by all his honky-tonkin' he can barely see straight. Yet as he describes these troubles on "Put Yourself In My Shoes," he seems to be having a grand time, whoopin' his way through "This Nightlife" and happily harmonizing on "One More Payment." Has he gone nuts? Not hardly. Black isn't singing about his own life, he's just trying to live up to the country music truism that the worst times make the best lyrics. Trouble is, Black puts so much effort into writing 'em like they used to that he forgets the most important tradition of all: Sing 'em like you mean it.

WIGGLE IT 2 In a Room/(Cutting/Charisma 91594)

When you get right down to it, it rarely matters whether a dance record is original; what counts is whether it's functional. Which perhaps explains why the songs on 2 In a Room's "Wiggle It" manage to defy expectations so completely. Obviously, there's nothing new here, as the album's every groove -- from the bass-driven thump of "She's Got Me Going Crazy" to the hip-house wallop of the title tune -- seems to have been borrowed from somewhere else. But that's never a problem, because the 2 in a Room team knows how to turn a secondhand beat into a first-class dance track.

REFLECTIONS OF PASSION Yanni/(Private Music 2067)

Because new age instrumental music is so frequently derided as aural wallpaper or high-concept background music, it's easy to forget how pompous and pretentious some of it really is. Fortunately, there's always Yanni to remind us. Skim through his current best-of collection, "Reflections of Passion," and you'll be astonished at how grandiose his symphonic synth arrangements get. But what floats along on these great waves of sound is disappointingly flimsy.

TASTE OF CHOCOLATE/Big Daddy Kane (Cold Chillin' 26303)

Given some of the things he says about women, Big Daddy Kane might seem like just another male chauvinist rapper. But in truth, Kane isn't a sexist -- he's an egoist. And though that doesn't exactly recommend him as a friend, it hardly hinders his charm as an entertainer. Take "Taste of Chocolate" as an example; not only does he take on such idols as Barry White (in the amazingly straight-faced "All of Me") and Rudy Ray Moore (in "Big Daddy vs. Dolemite"), he even manages to describe 300 years of African-American history as if it had been a personal experience ("Who Am I").


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