Picks and Pans Review: A Rock of Life

updated 03/21/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/21/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Rick Springfield

Noting that a pop singer got his or her major boost as a TV star is not the heartiest recommendation. From Shelley Fabares and Richard Chamberlain to Lynda Carter and Bruce Willis, the record bins have been filled with the detritus of personalities who have tried to cash in on television visibility with musical—more often semimusical—moonlighting. Then, there have been such entertainers as Rick Nelson, Cheryl Ladd and John Schneider, whose records are worth a pile of their old TV series segments any day. Hartman, the ex-Knots Landing superstarlet, and Springfield, the former General Hospital soap hunk, belong in the second category. Springfield, who has been emphasizing his singing for about seven years now, has a glossier act. Rock of Life (RCA), which he co-produced with Keith Olsen (also a White-snake collaborator) features a big, rave-up sound and 10 sensible, engaging tunes, most of them written by Springfield. There is some questionable taste in Honeymoon in Beirut, which compares a tempestuous romance to the turmoil in Lebanon: "Strategy and maneuvers (have replaced)/ Any love that was here/ We have dinner in silence/ And bullets with beer." It's obvious, though, that Springfield has something in mind most of the time, so that even his standard romantic tunes get away from romantic clichés: "Trying to get faith from the $8.50 paperbacks/ Hoping they'll show me the way (the way to what?)/ Man in a crisis, a young girl in his bed/ She's trying to help him when she tells him it's all in his head." Springfield's voice lacks distinction; he sounds like Sting on the title track, like Bruce Springsteen on the popular Tear It All Down, like Lou Gramm of Foreigner on Hold on to Your Dream. The record moves from one groove to another with vigor, though, and nothing on it resembles a lull. That's not true of 'Til My Heart Stops (Atlantic), primarily because Hartman and producer Bill Wray settled for a less communicative group of songs. Hartman helped compose two of them, so it's no ego-trip problem. Most of the composers are unknowns, so it's not another case of rounding up the usual songwriting suspects. It's just that Ooh, I'm Satisfied and Tender Kiss sound as banal in execution as they do by title. One track begins with a vamp that suggests a version of Michael Jackson's Beat It, which might have afforded Hartman the sort of immediately alluring vehicle this album needs. The tune turns out, however, to be the dull Imagination. Hartman is no neophyte. She has recorded three previous albums and her Knots character, Ciji Dunne, was a pop singer. There's nothing wrong with this album in fact that a few terrific songs wouldn't fix in a snap.

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