December 22, 1997 12:00 PM


Blame the Beatles. They were the first to swipe made-in-the-USA pop music and sell it back to us as a new-and-improved product. In the three decades since, countless bands from over there have followed suit and flooded the American market with music just like ours, only better.

The latest culprit is a 24-year-old British soul crooner named Jason Rowe. He bills himself as Jai (rhymes with sigh), and his debut album, Heaven, is a 12-song, 50-minute argument for tougher trade barriers. Not only is he a top-flight singer who can swing from a funky croon to a velvety falsetto, he also cowrote 10 of the CD’s songs. A remarkably confident career launcher, the album finds Jai (who took his name from the Beatles song “Across the Universe”) already sounding like a master pop craftsman. “I Believe” and “I Need Love” kick off the album, creating a romantic mood that turns to heartbreak in “Don’t Give Me Away” and reaches pop perfection with the sadly ironic title cut. Jai’s Yank R&B counterparts have good reason to grouse. There ought to be a law. (RCA)

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