June 20, 1988 12:00 PM

Nick Lowe

On countless albums, by people from Elvis Costello to k.d. lang to the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Englishman Lowe has proved himself a sensible and adept producer, particularly of outlaw country and primitive barrelhouse rock. For a record producer, that citation is rather like praising a Broadway director for being good at handling light comedy. Most directors, however, would hesitate to mount a show and cast themselves in the lead role. The obvious danger is exactly what makes this a flawed and frequently flabby album: It’s hard to objectively rein in your own creative impulses. Lowe the producer lets Lowe the performer get away with things he would never allow on someone else’s project. He’s on track (even if it’s the Petticoat Junction local) on the simple blues rockers he wrote, such as I Got the Love and Big Hair. The reggae-fied country of Cry It Out is appealing in the fashion of Eric Clapton’s balladry. But too much of the rest of the record sounds lazy, cutesy or threadbare. Lowe, who is usually a reliable borrower, even misses the boat on his cover versions, especially Graham Parker’s Black Lincoln Continental and John Hiatt’s Love Gets Strange. And Big Big Love by Wynn Stewart and Kenneth Carroll sounds very much like a cover—of the Kinks’ Complicated Life—even though it isn’t. Throughout this assemblage of tracks that were culled from recording sessions in 1986 and 1987, the feeling is a little too off-the-cuff. This sounds like something that Lowe might have toyed with on his vacations away from producing other performers’ work. (Columbia)

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