Picks and Pans Review: Hero

updated 01/06/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/06/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

Clarence Clemons

The first impulse on hearing the Big Man's solo record is to check that your turntable isn't set at too slow a speed, since Clemons' voice is so burly and sluggish. The sax symbol for Springsteen's E Street Band, Clemons elicited some talented help to try to overcome his glaring vocal problem. The majority of the songs were co-written by Narada Michael Walden and Jeffrey Cohen and produced by Walden. The same combination worked wonders on Aretha Franklin's recent record and labors valiantly here. The arrangements are fabulously jumpy and lucid and go a long way toward redeeming the swampy bullfrog vocals. On the hard-driving instrumental Liberation Fire, Clemons' tenor sax holds the attention, as does his amusing self-adulation on Kissin' on U. Yet it isn't until late on the second side that the logical strategy of giving the lead vocal to Craig Thomas is explored. That simple expedient, had it been used throughout, could have made Hero a wonderful album instead of an indifferent one. (Columbia)

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