March 08, 1993 12:00 PM

Alexander O’Neal

In an era when, increasingly, practitioners of R&B are whiny kids with beepers and baggy pants, O’Neal’s romance-with-a-little-snarl makes him a man among boys. His husky baritone retains the unmistakable “grrr” of All True Man, his triumphant 1990 third album, but for some reason his producers have cast him here as a cheerful neo-’60s soul singer.

O’Neal, a Natchez, Miss., native who got his start singing with an early version of the Time, uses his trademark edginess to rescue the bluesy and ridiculously catchy “All That Matters to Me” from falling into some nostalgic; Stax-lite rut. He teams with old singing mate Cherrelle (“Saturday Love”) on a delightful remake of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Your Precious Love,” but O’Neal has too much toughness in him to do the silkier Gaye real justice. Still, such is the strength of his singing that even his mistakes sound good compared with what’s out there. O’Neal is best when he explores the darkness. Here he’s a little too bathed in light. (Tabu)

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