Ce Ce Peniston (A&M; 75021 5381)
Because the dance music market is one of the few places where the single still reigns supreme, almost nobody on the club circuit expects a great single to guarantee a good album. But pop fans tend to be less forgiving of filler, and that might pose problems for Ce Ce Peniston's debut, "Finally." Although the title tune is a delightful surprise, marrying a muscular, insinuating groove to Peniston's soulful, insistent vocals, the rest of the album is PTC disappointingly dull. Apart from the Teena Marie-style delivery Peniston lends "Keep On Walkin'," most of the other house tunes on the album sink rapidly into predictability, while her ballad singing seems shallow and overwrought. Stick with the single.
Lush (4AD/Reprise 26798)
Listening to Lush, it's easy to understand how this English quartet earned its name. As was obvious to anyone who heard "Gala," the band's 1991 American debut, Lush's sound is quite lush, indeed, full of dense, blurred clouds of guitar and cool, breathy vocals, all swirled together into a shimmering, sonic confection. But that first album was all atmosphere and no bite, whereas "Spooky," Lush's sophomore effort, fleshes out its luscious textures with strong, memorable melodies. And while that won't land this band in the Top 40, it's more than enough to push these songs into the foreground, particularly when they're as pleasant and hummable as "Tiny Smiles" or the urgent "For Love."
Chad Wackerman (CMP 48)
Books shouldn't be judged by their covers, and neither should an albums be dismissed on the basis of their genre. Thus, no matter how much Chad Wackerman's "Forty Reasons" looks like just another predictable fusion outing, the music contained therein is engaging, intelligent and astonishingly cliche-free. Working with a first-rate quartet -- guitarist Alan Holdsworth, keyboardist Jim Cox and bassist Jimmy Johnson -- drummer Wackerman manages to combine the fevered interplay of a straight-ahead quartet session with the cool textures and exquisite taste of an ECM production. Consequently, the music is never less than enthralling, from to off-center swing of "Waltzing on Jupiter" to the full-throttle ferocity of "Go."
JUSTIFIED & ANCIENT
The KLF (Arista CD5 2403)
Invention may be more a matter of perspiration than inspiration, but in pop music, a good idea is worth more than any amount of exertion. Just look at how much a little bit of brainstorming has helped the KLF's "Justified & Ancient." In its original incarnation, this song was a silly piece of tribute to the fact that KLF masterminds Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty originally recorded as the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu. In other words, no big deal. But then they got the idea of re-recording the tune with Tammy Wynette singing lead, plus backing tracks filled out by gorgeous Zulu harmony vocals, a big beefy funk beat. A crazy idea? Sure. A brilliant single? Absolutely. And both versions (plus a couple even crazier mixes) can be found on this EP.