Picks and Pans Review: Small World

UPDATED 08/29/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/29/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT

Huey Lewis and the News

There's the usual platoon of San Francisco 49ers doing some locker-room-variety backup singing—appropriately on Walking with the Kid, a tune about a father and son out for a heart-to-heart. But otherwise there are relatively few similarities between this album and Lewis' previous Sports and Fore! The titles are a clue to the change. While Sports and Fore! were loose, good-time pop—a bunch of the guys getting together—this album is more self-conscious, more ambitious, more intellectually interesting and not nearly as much fun. The band's fans will recognize the spirit and playfulness of Give Me the Keys (and I'll Drive You Crazy), which Lewis wrote with his assistant tour manager, Steve Lewis, and drummer Bill Gibson, and Old Antone's, a Louisiana-flavored stomper with some incidental accordion work by Lewis' protégé, Bruce Hornsby. Not so familiar in tone are the title track and Perfect World—didn't we hear a title something like that a few lines ago? They both strike a universal peace theme, and Small World is reprised as an instrumental, with a long solo by jazz saxophonist Stan Getz that's nicely turned yet takes some getting used to in this context. (While Lewis is a most entertaining singer, he's not exactly Jazz Hall of Fame material.) Two other tracks are essentially instrumental too, as Lewis incorporates slices of reggae and ska into the band's style. However this expansive approach affects the band's heretofore wide commercial success, it clearly changes the ground rules. The band's transition suggests the difference between reading a fast, witty spy novel and reading a thick volume on world history. Both can be rewarding experiences, but they demand and generate substantially varying moods in an audience. (Chrysalis)

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