April 18, 1988 12:00 PM

Peabo Bryson

The most accomplished artisans in pop music labor in the field of R&B, turning out relaxed yet scintillating and flawless records with remarkable consistency. That talent may be a drawback because the producers, musicians and singers of modern soul can hammer together aural jewelry that is shiny and attractive even when the gem at the center (i.e., the song) is made of paste. As usual, Bryson on this record skates between fired up and merely going-through-the-motions, but it’s often hard to evaluate the level of his effort because the background is so ear catching. The veteran Atlanta balladeer has a moving, strong voice—sometimes almost muscle-bound. He sounds best when he’s passionately preaching the gospel of love, as on Tonight, Come on over Tonight and Without You, a duet with Regina Belle from the film Leonard Part 6. The only surprise here is a cover of Timi Yuro’s Hurt, which retains a catchy ’50s feel. The rest of Positive is made up of standard love songs and plugs away at the mood that is known on black radio as “quiet storm” (the title of Bryson’s last album). At this point Peabo could mail in a performance like this and pay someone else to lick the stamps. Maybe that’s the problem. While it’s pretty and sweet enough, it’s a triumph of style over substance, containing nothing novel. (Elektra)

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