GET UP ON IT
Keith Sweat (Elektra 61550)
There's always been something of a lover-man aura to Keith Sweat's music, but he's never presented that side of his sound as literally as he does on "Get Up on It." Between the pillow-talk persuasiveness of his voice and the single-minded insistence of his lyrics, Sweat makes no secret of how he defines romance. As such, "Get Up on It" comes across less as a musical valentine than a sort of danceable sex manual. To his credit, Sweat avoids the kind of slavering explicitness that marks the work of his proteges in Silk, but even so, there's not a whole lot of subtlety to be found in the likes of "Come Into My Bedroom" or "Grind On You." Worse, the beats -- usually one of the best things about Sweat's work -- are as monotonous as his lyrics, with only the Roger Troutman-spiked "Put Your Lovin' Through the Test" exhibiting anything in the way of spunk or originality.
IT TAKES A THIEF
Coolio (Tommy Boy 1083)
Given the buoyant charm and infectious spirit of his Lakeside-powered pop hit "Fantastic Voyage," it's hard to imagine Coolio exuding the kind of menace normally associated with gangsta rap. But make no mistake -- there's some very scary stuff on "It Takes a Thief." Coolio makes no bones about the violence inherent in the gangsta lifestyle, offering brutal depictions of desperate living in "Mama, I'm In Love Wit a Gangsta," and ruthless larceny in the title track. At the same time, he's just as honest about the dehumanizing effect of crack addition, painting vivid portraits of shame and desperation, such as the raps "County Line" and "N Da Closet." Yet no matter how bad things get, he never quite loses his sense of humor, and that -- as exemplified by "Ghetto Cartoon" and its ilk -- is ultimately what keeps Coolio on track.
Wallace Roney (Warner Bros. 45641)
Of all the young trumpeters vying for the late Miles Davis' mantle, Wallace Roney is probably the most obvious heir apparent. In addition to having the same sort of dark, expressive tone Davis had, Roney seems blessed with a similar sense of harmonic imagination. Granted, Roney may not be quite as adventurous as Davis, but he's equally prone to tart lyricism and modal angularity, and that helps lend a classic air to the low-key balladry and lush orchestrations of "Misterios." Although the sound isn't quite a copy of the work Davis did with Gil Evans, it has many of the same resonances, particularly on such skillfully abstracted pop tunes as "Michelle" and "I Will Always Love You." But the album's most exciting moments come when Roney sparks off pianist Geri Allen, whose deftly voiced accompaniment invariably pushes him in new and original directions.
Various Artists (Epic Soundtrax 66329)
Because many movies try to evoke a specific period or milieu, their soundtracks end up almost as specialty items, defining a fairly narrow slice of musical taste. Not "Forrest Gump: The Soundtrack." Rather than fall into the trap of hipper-than-thou obscurantism, the album follows Gump across three decades of mainstream American culture, listening to roughly the same music as anyone with an AM radio. Sure, there are classics here -- Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog," Aretha Franklin's "Respect," and their ilk -- but there's also plenty of corn, like the Rooftop Singers' "Walk Right In" or B. J. Thomas' "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head." And in the end, it's the balance struck between the two that makes the musical world of "Gump" seem so honest and unpretentious.