Picks and Pans Review: Mary Jean & Nine Others

updated 08/17/1987 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/17/1987 01:00AM

Marshall Crenshaw

Many people have found Crenshaw's economical, somewhat mournful pop style easy to resist. Ironically his fourth album, though in many ways his weakest collection, may win him some new fans. The converts will be won over because Crenshaw, thanks to producer Don Dixon, has traded in his customary wistful trio sound for a richer and more robust approach. Dixon pays closer attention to harmonies and adds more instrumentation and aural decoration, such as the pseudo-bongo effect on A Hundred Dollars. The album title is a satirical echo of the unimaginative pop album packages of the '50s and '60s, which on the cover would graphically trumpet the LP's big hit and dismissively lump together the hastily assembled filler that made up the rest of the record. Unfortunately that is all too close to the situation here. The songwriting, which heretofore has been Crenshaw's strong suit, is spotty. There are some nice melodic phrases in Calling Out For Love (at Crying Time) and This Street. But only Wild Abandon, the title track and the gloriously structured They Never Will Know are up to Crenshaw's usually high standards. His voice hasn't changed. At its best it's reminiscent of Don Everly. Most of the time, though, it's slightly flat and contains a hint of reticence, as if he wished he didn't have to be telling you this. No matter how he enriches his records, there will always be people who won't warm up to his singing. (Warner Bros.)

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