Pop Music Critic
12 INCHES OF SNOW
Snow (EastWest 92207)
Is Snow the new Vanilla Ice? Dancehall fans may well think so, given the way his hit, "Informer," climbed the charts faster than anything by Shabba Ranks or Mad Cobra. But as much light-weight pop as there is on "12 Inches of Snow," it seems unlikely that Snow will melt away as easily as Vanilla Ice did. For one thing, there's nothing second-hand about Snow's hard-core side -- songs like "Runway" and "Lonely Monday Morning" not only capture the patois and cadences of Jamaican dancehall artists, but convey much the same worldview. And even when he soft-soaps the dancehall style on "Ease Up" or "Uhh In You," there's still enough edge to his performance to keep the songs from sounding like total sellouts.
SUNSHINE ON THE SUFFERBUS
Masters of Reality (Chrysalis 21976)
After Cream reunited for a couple songs at the last Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction dinner, a lot of that band's fans felt they had missed a once-in-a-lifetime chance by not being there. And maybe they did. But anyone interested in hearing how Cream has been continued need only look as far as the new Masters of Reality album, "Sunshine on the Sufferbus." Though the band's sound is definitely Cream-y, it doesn't quite equal the original; guitarist Chris Goss is hardly a Clapton-quality soloist, and tends more toward the quirky pop of "Anyone for Tennis" than the bluesy crunch of "I Feel Free." But Goss' voice does capture the same blend of sweetness and bite that Jack Bruce always managed, and the rhythm section -- anchored by the redoubtable Ginger Baker -- is as muscular and inventive as Cream ever was.
Eddie Murphy (Motown 374 636 354)
Usually, when a movie star decides to take a stab at pop stardom, the resulting recording says more about the PTC performer's vanity than his or her ability. And in that sense, at least, "Love's Alright" is a mildly remarkable album. As Eddie Murphy's third album as a singer, it neither needs to show off his pipes ("Party All the Time" did that years ago) nor to assuage his ego (his contract with Paramount does that better than any album could). No, what this album means to do is make him a singing star -- even if it means dragging in half the recording industry for vocal cameos on "Yeah." Trouble is, no amount of vocal or instrumental talent can pull a big hit from a bad song, and unfortunately that's about all Murphy has to work with here. As a result,
"Love's Alright" mostly isn't.
WHILE WE'RE YOUNG
John Abercrombie (ECM 1489)
What put jazz guitarist John Abercrombie on the map was "Timeless," a 1975 recording with Jan Hammer and Jack DeJohnette that put a fusion spin on the traditional organ trio approach. So you'd think that "While We're Young," Abercrombie's return to that idea, would be at least as exciting as the original. But whereas its predecessor smoked from beginning to end, this new set only sputters. Although there are occasional sparks from the guitarist in the loping jazz waltz "A Matter of Time," or from organist Dan Wall on "Mirrors," too much of the album meanders into the dead-end atmospherics of numbers like the snoozy "Dear Rain."