Picks and Pans Review: Slave to the Rhythm

updated 02/17/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/17/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

Grace Jones

Is there a chanteuse lurking behind the physical presence of Grace Jones? Well, at least she sings better than she talks. Island Life is mainly a retrospective of her recording work for Island Records. From the scrap heap of Grace's music career as a Euro-disco diva and androgynous vamp comes an embarrassment of musical poverty that includes her interminable version of La Vie en rose. The anthology loads up on Grace of the '80s, where the musicians and selections improve. But that only makes Jones's lack of feeling for vocal continuity and dynamics more apparent. The arrangements are still padded and the approach campily muzzy. More interesting is Slave to the Rhythm (Manhattan), mostly because there is so little Grace on it. Instead this grandiose project smacks of Trevor Horn, the Englishman whose production moxie took the group Frankie Goes to Hollywood from being totally unknown no-talents to wildly famous no-talents. Horn's brash, intriguing sound provides the only entertainment on this scattered theme-and-variation record. But the surfeit of interviews, readings and biographical notes about "Jones...Miss Grace Jones"—a phrase repeated in mantra-like fashion—that are included between songs mars Horn's distinctive craftsmanship. The cover photos of Jones by her longtime collaborator Jean-Paul Goude are the best part of both these records. Grace's physical presence holds the attention more than her singing ever will.

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