July 08, 1996 12:00 PM

Harry Connick Jr.

Looks like the artist formerly known as prince of jazzy, easy-listening pop has changed his tune for good. Having flirted with Cajun-spiced funk on 1994’s She, Connick completes his stylistic turnabout with this jive-talking, rock-and-rolling concept album.

Actually “concept” is stretching things a bit. Connick wisely limits, to four snippets, the cornball idea of guiding the title’s “reptilian rocketeer`” through New Orleans’s all-inclusive music scene. Who needs a plot linking 11 boogie-down bayou grooves that hold up nicely on their own?

Musically, Connick has hyperkinetic energy to spare. He brings in ‘da noise and ‘da funk with the syncopated hustle of “Mind on the Matter.” And his rhythmic piano plunking on “Eyes of the Seeker” and “Nobody like You to Me” is worthy of the Killer himself. Too bad too many of Connick’s vocals come across as soulless and glib. Sure, he successfully conveys the joie de vivre of “Reason to Believe,” but elsewhere he sounds emotionally distant, like he’d rather be crooning in some Crescent City cabaret. (Columbia)

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