Picks and Pans Review: Joy
Pendergrass makes a fantastic first impression on this record. The title track, which starts off the proceedings, is built on a fat, insouciant bass line, has crisp percussion and barbed-wire guitar chords, strings added for subtle sweetening and, right when it is needed, a horn section for turbocharging. Joy, written and produced by the Calloway brothers, Reggie and Vince, is an R&B paragon. It's also quite a calling card for the record. The problem is there isn't much to back it up. On the two albums since his 1982 car accident, Pendergrass has turned down the Bunsen burners under his once ferocious voice. His got-to-have-you-NOW-baby imperative is gone. On this record, for the first time, he sounds completely comfortable with his mellowing. His modulation is certainly more gracious and relaxed than it has ever been before. But there isn't any material worth lavishing his newfound honeyed tones on. There is just a bunch of lukewarm, lazy songs like 2 A.M. and Good to You. The only catchy ballad is Love Is the Power, the album's other contribution from the Calloways. The rest of the record pales in comparison with that first kick, but then so does most everything else you hear on the radio these days. It doesn't get much better than Joy-but only the song, not the album. (Elektra)
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