Picks and Pans Review: Volume V: Believe

updated 10/23/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/23/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Soul II Soul

Talk about a revolution. When "Keep on Movin' " and "Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)," Soul II Soul's 1989 breakthrough hits, first filled the airwaves with their lush, string-soaked arrangements, syncopated African polyrhythm and creamy vocals, they sounded like a brilliant musical coup. But despite the enduring appeal of those two tunes, six years and countless imitators later, they sound a little quaint.

Soul II Soul doesn't seem to have noticed, though: Their latest album is business as usual. Though they dip into some horn-tooting jazz waters ("How Long"), flirt with Middle Eastern psychedelia ("Love Enuff") and try out a slight country-western twang ("Zion"), Jazzie B and his cast of rotating voices (which includes Caron Wheeler, singer of the two aforementioned hits) barely budge from the old formula.

But familiarity aside, the soothing, sensual dance tempos on Believe make the album a sweet sojourn in soul's comfort zone. Now, if only Jazzie B would drop the smiley-face philosophizing. Fortune-cookie wisdom like "Everybody listen/ Make a change/ Negative attitudes/ Rearrange" is hollow hack therapy at its worst. (Virgin)

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