Picks and Pans Review: The Return of Bruno

updated 03/09/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/09/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

Bruce Willis

Almost everybody has one uncle who insists on getting up at weddings and muddling through his favorite song. Even though he can't sing worth a damn, he gets a wild round of applause because, well, he's still lovable Uncle Joe. Willis' debut LP conveys the same feeling. He has a thin, nondescript voice, and his harmonica playing is just barely adequate, but he sounds like he's having a real jolly time cranking out this collection of R&B-flavored tunes. Part of that is due to his ability to transfer to vinyl the same frisky, wise-guy personality he plays as Moonlighting's David Addison. Willis' sense of humor helps him pull off such lyrics as those found in New Orleans composer-pianist Allen Toussaint's Fun Time: "Gotta few jinglings janglin' in my pocket/ And I gotta couple that don't make no noise/ Looks like this night I'm all fired up for rockin'/ And the stars above are just a few of my toys." He also seems at ease with his sidemen, many of whom come from a road-tested bar band called the Heaters. ("I knew I'd get along with these guys immediately; they all had dirt under their fingernails.") He runs into trouble when he has to sing along with performers who invite invidious comparisons. There's something vaguely obscene about the Temptations doing backup vocals for Willis on Under the Boardwalk. And it's all over for him when June Pointer roars out of her corner on the medium-tempo Respect Yourself. Bruce's TV partnership with Cybill Shepherd works better, though she might outsing him too, it she tried. (Motown)

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