August 03, 1987 12:00 PM


Alison Moyet

Moyet’s solo career has been like one of those baffling marriages in which you adore the wife but can’t figure out what she sees in her oafish husband. It’s hard to resist the British singer, who has a captivating voice, gracious, full-bodied and colored with a coppery glow. But it’s easy to question some of her career choices. While she was with Yaz, she was the Ice Goddess of New Wave, bringing her soulful restraint to the synthesized compositions of Vince Clarke (now of Erasure) Petula Clark she never was. Yet on both her solo records, her producers have dragged her out of her element and into the treacherous waters of corny pop sentiment. They mismatch her with too-fast beats that make Moyet sound frowsy and pedestrian. Only on two songs, Sleep Like Breathing and Blow Wind Blow, both of which are reminiscent of more cerebral, Kate Bush-like material, does Moyet exhibit the haunting quality she is capable of. (David Freeman and Joseph Hughes of the Lover Speaks pitched in on Sleep Like Breathing.) Otherwise this is a waste of talent. Take this impostor away and give us the real Moyet. (Columbia)


Jonathan Butler

Jonathan Butler is just 25, and, as some of our sportscasters might say, his future is ahead of him. However his story turns out though, it isn’t bad up to now. He was born in the “colored” township of Athlone in Cape Town, South Africa, the youngest of 17 children. After picking up a guitar when he was six, he joined a traveling act featuring a contingent of his older siblings and at 13 had a recording contract. Later he became the first black to win the South African equivalent of a Grammy. The resulting money and leverage allowed him to complete a sophisticated musical education and in 1985 move to London. Last year he released his first album in the U.S., an all-instrumental LP, and now comes this striking two-record package, on which Butler sings and plays a pop jazz guitar. Both critically and commercially a hit, it is creating one of those unlikely up-from-poverty stories that is all the more satisfying because Butler is such an obvious talent. A seductive, easy singer, reminiscent of George Benson, Butler is a rich, melodic guitar player, with echoes of Chet Atkins and Wes Montgomery. Butler’s first single, Lies, or the hyper-romantic Love Songs and Candlelight and You amply demonstrate his ability. A couple of caveats suggest themselves. As a singer, Butler resembles Benson a little too much at times. The album’s songs, most of which Butler wrote or co-wrote, would be largely unexceptional without his unique tone and improvisations. As a guitarist, he could use some of the fire of the early Benson, and there could be more connection between him and his backup musicians (a studio group in this case). Yet those problems don’t put much of a dent in the album. There is a powerful, charismatic quality to Butler’s performing. The story can only get better. (Jive/RCA)


Tanya Tucker

Tucker started so young, she would seem older than her 28 years even if she didn’t sound so weathered and worldly-wise. But that voice-of-experience quality serves her beautifully on this album, on which she seems very relaxed and in command—much less desperate to create an effect and much more effective than she has in a long time. She and producer Jerry Crutchfield have also matched her style effectively with such tunes as Bobby Braddock’s Alien, the defiantly mournful Tommy Rocco-John Schweers-Charlie Black tune Temporarily Blue and Deborah Allen’s and Rafe Van Hoy’s If I Didn’t Love You. The vague sense of toughness that has always informed Tucker’s style is particularly suited to these songs, which mostly suggest a woman who’s not so indifferent that love can’t make her suffer, but not so dumb that she’ll suffer too much either. The album is a felicitous blending of style and substance, an enjoyable 33 minutes of contemporary country music. (Capitol)



Feet aren’t dumb. Sure, they like to hustle around and waltz and polka and generally boogie it up, but they are also connected to the brain and would just as soon maintain the relationship. That’s why this album of dance pop tunes is so satisfying: it has something for everyone, synapses as well as toes. T’Pau is a sextet out of Shrewsbury, England with Carol Decker providing the throaty, dynamic lead vocals. She and guitarist Ron Rogers wrote the songs, which vary from the knockout You Give Up to the Caribbean-touched Friends Like These to the stentorian drama of Heart and Soul. There’s a canny intelligence behind the lyrics: “Don’t push too far/Your dreams are China in your hand/Don’t wish too hard/Because they may come true.” Decker’s and Rogers’ arrangements utilize synthesizer tricks without sounding gimmicky. The electronics make T’Pau, like most modern bands, seem alienated—certainly not intimate—but it’s a group that otherwise captures your attention, from top to bottom. (Virgin)


Loudon Wainwright III

Fans of Wainwright will take the title of his new record with a grain of salt. This singer-songwriter, always something of a high-sodium proposition, works the terrain between too clever for his own good and very funny. Unfortunately, on More Love Songs, Wainwright is rarely amusing and a little too clever. The record does have its moments. For instance, in The Home Stretch, which details the woes of a touring musician, he sings, “Your girlfriend is living in a city/Thousands of miles away/That is full of young male models/Not all of whom are gay.” But there are also lines that are clunkier than barbells, such as “A man ain’t an island/John Donne was a liar.” Yeah, Loudon, you wouldn’t be tossing around these glib insults if that burly and hotheaded poet hadn’t died 356 years ago. Some references are arcane, as in Wainwright’s treatise on white-collar women, Man’s World: “Now you’re on that Nautilus/Whoa, you’re a crazy Captain Nemo.” Wainwright gives his voice more license than is seemly on this album too. All that wavering and whining indicates a bad case of Arlo Guthrie disease. The truly criminal act of More Love Songs is underutilizing the talents of old Wainwright crony Richard Thompson. This extraordinary guitarist is heard only briefly on No and The Home Stretch. The strongest songs by far on the album are Overseas Call, about a transatlantic love affair, and Your Mother and I, in which a father explains divorce to his child. Both are pretty, sad, simple and sincere. The rest of the time Wainwright, usually a reliable traveler of the imagination, is spinning his wheels. (Rounder)


Roger Daltrey

Daltrey missed his calling in life. Instead of a singer, he should have been a translator or what they call on Star Search “a TV spokes-model.” He spent most of his career in The Who, giving expression to Pete Townshend’s dreams and anxieties. Daltrey’s most satisfying solo record to date is still Daltrey, on which he sang all Leo Sayer-Dave Courtney compositions. Given a cohesive vision to interpret, he can really throw himself into the material. But left to his own devices and cherry-picking songs from different writers, Daltrey is a cipher. The tenor of this record, as evidenced by songs like Hearts of Fire and When the Thunder Comes, is certainly not rock; it’s far too orchestrated and formal. Listening to it summons up visions of Daltrey in a studio wearing a cummerbund and bow tie. Balance on Wires is nothing more than very light opera with an intrusive electric guitar bridge in the middle. Maybe Daltrey chooses bloated serenades like this because he thinks they complement his melodramatic delivery. But oddly enough, whenever he reaches for his most majestic tone, his voice thins out appreciably. As always there are many moments when Daltrey seems on the verge of forsaking singing altogether in favor of screaming. All one can do is wait for his bad feelings to pass. Of course Daltrey’s not bad when he takes his voice high and angelic, but he doesn’t visit that land of sugar and spice enough. There is one good song, Take Me Home, buried on the second side (and nearly buried again by its busy horn arrangement), but otherwise the record is a stiff. Maybe it’s time for Roger to seek out a new muse. You know, Daltrey Sings Manilow. That’s about Artful Roger’s speed. (Atlantic)

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