Picks and Pans Review: Almost Speechless

updated 02/12/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/12/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

Ben Arnold

The Philly scene has always teemed with lean, tuneful pop and R&B (Hall & Oates in the '70s, the Hooters in the '80s). The 29-year-old Arnold, who has been gigging around the City of Brotherly Love for the better part of a decade, belongs to a budding local crop of fresh and creative alternative acts. His voice suggests a cross between Graham Parker and Randy Newman, and Arnold's songs can be as deceptively dark and funny as either. "My inner voice has got laryngitis," he sings on the frisky ditty "Light of Love." But Arnold is versatile and unsentimental enough to deliver a painfully honest ballad like "Be There," which mourns the loss of his father. You also have to appreciate someone who can write a song about the Wright Brothers and make it worthy of its title: "Soar." Arnold seems like a musical Rocky, ready to take on any level of competition. (Ruff House/Columbia)

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