Picks and Pans Review: Essex
In a picture-perfect pop world, Alison Moyet might possess a Grammy collection and a bank account to rival chart queens like Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. But after injecting '80s synth-pop with heart and soul on two Yaz albums and three solo releases, Moyet's gospel shout—a blend of Dusty Springfield in Memphis and Annie Lennox unplugged—-has continued to meet with indifference. Moyet hopes to reverse her fortunes with Essex. Unfortunately the new album adds little to the underrated Brit's résumé. When she scales the height of her vocal might, as on the coolly seductive "Getting into Something" or the stately balladry of "Satellite" and "Dorothy," Moyet can stir the comatose. But that brassy alto can't right Essex's pair of wrong turns: "Falling," despite a killer chorus, drowns in muddled Sgt. Pepper psychedelia, and Yaz's libidinous "Ode to Boy" resurfaces as a vigorous—and completely sexless—acoustic romp.
Though the worst of Moyet's blue-eyed soul still beats Carey's best lovesick prattle, those empty coffers might have to wait until next time. (Columbia)