By People Staff
August 08, 1988 12:00 PM

Robert Palmer

Give the man credit. After the raging success of his previous album, Riptide, kicked his career up several notches, he could have laid back and turned out a reasonable facsimile of that 1986 record, then started looking for places to stash the cash flow. Instead, he has turned out a wide-ranging, playful, adventuresome album. True, some of the tunes he wrote for it seem disastrous; Casting a Spell and Disturbing Behaviour, both dirgelike and bordering on the monotonic, for instance, are certainly unlistenable and perhaps unsingable. Early in the Morning sounds as if it might have been the theme for a fourth-rate ’60s spy movie. Palmer’s attempt to croon the old Jimmy Van Heusen standard, It Could Happen to You, exposes the extremely limited range of his voice and brings to mind such adjectives as “woeful” and “wretched.” Then there’s Change His Ways, which sounds like what might happen if a band of gremlins got loose in a music store. It starts out with a South African tinge—Palmer hops aboard that currently chic ox wagon a couple of times on the album—then drifts through a reggae mood, a Louisiana riff or two, some mundane pop and, saints preserve, a snatch of yodeling. This is one of those notions that reads better than it sounds, and it doesn’t read all that amusingly. So much for the nice-try stuff. The already-to-hit-status single off the album, Simply Irresistible, is a model pop tune, as adroit a mix of rock, R&B and layered arrangements as the Riptide single Addicted to Love. Palmer’s bluesy style is best suited to rhythmic songs like this, and he has the wit to write such semisubliterate, semi-intellectual lines as “Her methods are inscrutable/ The proof is irrefutable. Ooh, ooh./ She’s so completely kissable, huh./ Our lives are indivisible.” Between Us has a samba lilt, while Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming, formerly a Michael-Jermaine Jackson duet, nicely survives a down-tempo arrangement, benefiting from B.J. Nelson’s backup vocal. There are, in short, a couple of tracks on this record that will get worn out quickly, plus a few that were born to be skipped. The whole project brings to mind sportswriter Ed Linn’s description of Boston Red Sox outfielder Ted Williams: sometimes unbearable, but never dull. (EMI-Manhattan)