Picks and Pans Review: Sold

updated 07/20/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/20/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Boy George

With Culture Club, Boy George always presented his voice with the same compulsive fastidiousness he uses to prepare his makeup and wardrobe. Sometimes his vocal sweetness seemed as artificial as a tired hostess's smile. But through all the group's hits, the buoyant, plucky and soulful nature of that voice never faltered. On his first solo album Boy George takes some daredevilish chances with his reputation. In place of the laminated cuteness of past vocals, he plunges into a raspy approach on Next Time and the title track, turns foggy and hoarse on Just Ain't Enough, and brazen on Where Are You Now? He can still be a coy singer, as he demonstrates on this LP's ballads, particularly the breezy, Brazilian-tinted Keep Me In Mind. But even on the slower songs he doesn't apply five coats of studio shellac to his voice as he was wont to do in his callower days. The overall result is a much more human and vulnerable Boy. Throughout the album he seems to be emulating Mick Hucknall's style in Simply Red. Not only is he using the same producer, Steve Levine, but he has also hooked up, as Hucknall did, with Lamont Dozier, one of the éminences noires of Mo-town's golden era, as his songwriting partner. They collaborate on four songs. The best of these joint ventures, indeed the best song on the album, is the simply arranged, hymnlike To Be Reborn. The gambling that takes place on Sold is strictly stylistic. The music is competently executed, but rather bland and straitlaced, like hip cocktail-lounge arrangements. An example is the atrocious reggae version of Bread's Everything I Own. To fit the reggae meter George must resort to a sort of hiccup on the chorus, "I would give everything I o-own." Oh-oh, Boy! After the critical roasting he has taken during recent years, George would have needed a powerhouse of an album to restore his musical stature. Sold certainly isn't that album, but it's nevertheless a brave effort. (Virgin)

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