Picks and Pans Review: Rock Solid

updated 10/31/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/31/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

The Commodores

The post-Lionel Richie Commodores appeared to be on their way to becoming just another one of those gifted but superfluous, aging soul groups. That is why the opening cuts on Rock Solid are so startling. With those tracks, the Commodores fly out of the precincts of mellow with a vengeance, wielding unexpected hard-edged funk. Gripp, the first song, slips into a groove as potent as the Ohio Players' vintage jams. It is followed by the wild Rio Carnaval mood-of Bump the La La. With these heavy hitters, the Commodores get right in your face. Unfortunately, they don't stay there. The very next song, Thank You, may give you whiplash, it's so jarringly unlike its predecessors. It sounds as if someone must have mistakenly switched the master tapes and dropped this saccharine ballad onto the wrong album. That schizophrenia, however, is not entirely inconsistent with the band's history. Even in the Commodores' heyday, they had a habit of bouncing back and forth from greasy funk to cotton candy love songs. This time around, the head of steam that the band built up on the first two songs begins to evaporate and they never regain their momentum. The attempts on the second side of the album to recapture that early reckless mood, with the beat-heavy songs Miracle Man and Stretchhh, seem to fall flat. There are some good tunes on Rock Solid, such as the rollicking I'm Gonna Need Your Loving, but what had threatened to be a three-alarm blaze turns out to be merely a smoky brush fire. (Polygram)

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