March 23, 1998 12:00 PM

A.J. Croce

Before his death in a 1973 plane crash, Jim Croce established himself as a subtle, witty and relentlessly naturalistic songwriter. His 26-year-old son A.J., by comparison, is often loud, crass and given to flights of rhetorical fancy. In this, his third solo album, A.J. often sounds more like the son of Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler than the offspring of Jim Croce.

Croce wrote or cowrote all the songs on this album except for two, including the blues standby “Trouble in Mind,” which he renders in almost strident fashion. The original tunes are uniformly lacking in warmth and narrative flow. Jim Croce certainly wrote some massive clinkers (although “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” was even more embarrassing for Frank Sinatra than it was for Croce). A.J. doesn’t indulge in any such tall tales; nor, however, does he have his dad’s touch for small, emotional songs such as “Time in a Bottle” or “Operator.” If the sins of a father aren’t always visited upon his son, neither, apparently, are his blessings. (Ruf)

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