Picks and Pans Review: Close-Up

updated 10/10/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/10/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

David Sanborn

It's a rare pop record today that does not include at least one of these gentlemen in its studio band. Gimble's and O'Connor's violins and miscellaneous strings are major assets, as are Horn and Sanborn's saxophones and miscellaneous woodwinds. These solo projects are less consistent. On their own, O'Connor and Sanborn often seem to be mesmerizing themselves into long, rambling tracks that never quite get resolved. On Elysian Forest (Warner Bros.), when O'Connor plays Both Sides Now or the traditional Miss Sally Goodwin, the definition is in marked contrast to the rest of the album. Like O'Connor, Sanborn always extracts a vivid, rich tone from his instruments, but Close-up (Reprise) meanders and only rarely generates any momentum. While most of the music was written by bassist Marcus Miller and/or himself, Sanborn gets more mileage from Randy Newman's Same Girl, which he and Miller (on keyboards) play as a brief duet. The album's only notable vocal, on Slam, is by a chorus that includes Ava Gardner and pro basketball player Wayman Tisdale; the Vienna Boys Choir need not worry about competition from this direction. Gimble, a Texan who is ubiquitous in country music circles, sings a little on his record (MCA). It's more talk-singing, actually, in the Texas Swing tradition he so admirably represents. He wrote nine of the album's 10 songs, including Have a Nice Day, a denunciation of clichés that rivals Dave Frishberg's Blizzard of Lies. Gimble also saws away contentedly on his fiddle in front of a quintet including his son Dick on bass. Horn is among the most versatile of studio men—he has worked with U2, the Rolling Stones, Barbra Streisand, George Harrison, John Denver, Dolly Parton, Frank Sinatra and Stevie Wonder, among many others. His ability to fit in almost anywhere doesn't come from a capacity for changing his style. It's just that his brawny, vaguely funky sound seems appropriate most of the time, and it is more than that on his solo album (Warner Bros.). The songs, most of which he co-wrote, have a sense of structure and completion. The title track, for instance, has a hard, driving edge—it sounds as if it could be a theme for a good, gritty detective movie. Midnight Encounter provides some reflective moments, and Horn's exchanges with guitarist Larry Byrom, which add spice throughout the record, are especially lively on Divided Soul. His record could stand as a model for what backup musicians can do with their freedom if they're let out of the corral every once in a while.

From Our Partners