October 07, 1991 12:00 PM

J.T. Taylor

The second solo album from the smooth-singing Taylor, former front man for Kool & the Gang, would seem to be a can’t-miss proposition. Send this wonderfully lithe, sweet stylist into the studio with such accomplished producers as Barry Eastmond, Robert Meeks, Simon Law, Ross Anderson and Vassal Benford and wait for the magic to happen.

Alas, in this business, there’s many a slip between the sheet music and the lips.

Though this is a devilishly polished collection, it has little feeling to it. Then too, the brash mood dragoons Taylor away from his strengths.

“Long Hot Summer Night,” for example, is a study in incongruity: a light pop melody underscored by impossibly heavy bass and rhythm elements. Lashing together strings and flute with a boom bass and a hyper-drum machine is like putting monster-truck tires on a moped. Likewise, on the balladic “Follow Me” and “Let’s Make Love (Like There’s No Tomorrow),” the listener gets cudgeled so hard by the fat-bottomed production that Taylor’s voice is lost. Even the lighter, Marvin Gaye—influenced “Feel the Need” glides through one ear and out the other.

While the hip-hop slammer “Twice” might work for Bell Biv DeVoe, it’s an odd choice for Taylor. In fact, the only songs on which he really shines are a duet with Stephanie Mills, “Heart to Heart,” and to a lesser extent, “One Night.”

Most of the record is targeted toward romancing the ladies, and to that end, such a horizontal bop as “Work with Me” may well be efficacious. But if this album is going to stimulate any hormones, it will have to fight its way past the ears to do it. (MCA)

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