BACK TO FRONT
Lionel Richie (Motown 374636338) It's bad enough that "Back to Front," Lionel Richie's first new album in 5 1/2 years, contains only three new songs; would it have been too much to expect them to have hit potential as well? Apparently so. "My Destiny," with its low-key vocals and understated, fatback groove, may offer a reasonable approximation of an Al B. Sure! B-side, but "Do It To Me" does it without any enthusiasm while "Love, Oh Love" comes on like a Lionel Richie parody with its platitudinous verses and kiddie-chorus finale. And though the rest of the album skims the best from his career as a Commodore and solo star, the disparity between then and now only makes the new songs seem that much more depressing.
FEATURING ZEMYA HAMILTON
Clubland (Great Jones 162-536 007)
Most Americans think of Swedish pop as being blandly Beatlesque, bursting with fair-haired ABBA and Roxette wannabes, but the truth is that Sweden supports an impressively diverse array of talent, including a surprisingly vital dance music scene. Clubland, for instance, built a buzz in this country merely on the strength of its import-only debut, and could well become the next Black Box -- at least, if "Clubland Featuring Zemya Hamilton" is any indication. Not only are the beats utterly insinuating, but the songs, particularly "Hypnotized," "Torture (In the Name of Love)" and "Set Me Free," are so hook-heavy and insistent it's hard to hear them without wanting to hum along and dance.
HOLDING MY OWN
George Strait (MCA 10532)
Although it seems almost churlish to complain about anyone who sings as well as George Strait, it's hard not to be at least a little disappointed with the sound of "Holding My Own." Sure, the album starts off strong, rolling easily from the buoyant swing of "You're Right, I'm Wrong" into the heart-rending sentiment of the title tune. But Strait's predilection for slow 'n' soppy ballads quickly gets the better of him, and though tunes like "So Much Like My Dad" and "Faults and All" have the feel of instant classics, it would have been nice if more songs had been blessed with the easygoing swagger of "Gone as a Girl Can Get."
THE COMPLETE CONCERT 1964:
MY FUNNY VALENTINE
+ FOUR & MORE
Miles Davis (Columbia/Legacy 48821)
Despite the accolades accorded Miles Davis toward the end of his career, many of the albums he made for Columbia were long out-of-print when he died last year. Fortunately, the company seems eager to make amends, and if "The Complete Concert 1964: My Funny Valentine + Four & More" is any indication of the label's future intentions, jazz fans have much to look forward to. Although this double-disc CD adds little in the way of new material -- just an introduction by Mort Fega and a two-minute taste of "Go-Go" -- the context provided by the re-packaging sheds new light on the performances, showing that the rhythm section played hotter while Davis and tenorman George Coleman blew cooler as the night went on. A classic re-issue, and well worth hearing.