Picks and Pans Review: Walk a Fine Line

updated 07/04/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/04/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Paul Anka

Never one to hide his dimness under a bushel, Anka says in discussing this album: "What's put me musically into each decade, I've found, is my willingness to change and be open-minded." In this case, he admits—brags, really—that, vocally, the music is at the limits of his not exactly all-encompassing vocal range, "because I wanted to keep the edge on every song." What emerges, though, is not so much edge as edginess, and a palpable physical straining. That's without even considering the inane lyrics that so often characterize Anka records: On Darlin', Darlin', which he wrote with David Foster and Jay Graydon, for example, he sings, "Everybody has a hard time holding the line/And I don't want to make a fool out of this heart of mine/Everybody's making love but not taking time/Everybody's got to get some loving sometime." The LP is basically New Wave schlock, in spite of the contributions of such talented musicians as drummer Jeff Porcaro and guitarist Steve Lukather of Toto, composer-arranger-guitarist Graydon, bassist Lee Sklar, saxophonist Ernie Watts, singer Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald. (Yep—him again; since the Doobies' breakup, he has been about the busiest studio performer in Los Angeles.) The unhappy fact is that most of the tracks on this album are beautifully arranged, performed and produced, but they sound good only when Anka isn't singing. The contrast is most dramatic on the potentially dynamic Gimme the Word, an Anka-Foster-Graydon-Steve Kipner tune recorded as a duet with Karla DeVito. When she and Anka exchange phrases, her voice is so full of life and urgency it's as if someone is turning a switch on and off: THIS IS MUSIC, this isn't.

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