Picks and Pans Review: The Offbeat of Avenues

updated 10/07/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/07/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The Manhattan Transfer

This vocal quartet has carved out a successful career with close harmonies and a sleek, sinuous sound, patterned after the hip scat perfected by Lambert, Hendricks and Ross.

This album, though, seems a bid for crossover success—how else to explain a mix that includes both rap music and selections that sound like Fifth Dimension rejects? It offers few of the pleasures of earlier MT efforts such as Mecca for Moderns, Extensions and Coming Out.

The album begins well, with a wailing sax and a throbbing, traffic-stopping melding of voices—solos, duets, quartets—in "The Offbeat of Avenues." There is also much to savor in the hard-to-get-it-out-of-your-head "Ten Minutes til the Savages Come," with its solo by Janis Siegel. That's the Manhattan Transfer style we know and love. Not the jangly "Confide in Me," not the trite "A World Apart" ("Well, I almost got to know you/ At least you made it to my heart/ But I know we'll always be a world apart") nor the overheated, excessively stylized, breathy, flute-accompanied "The Quietude." And certainly not the wraparound rapping of "Women in Love."

What next? Vanilla Ice singing Cole Porter? (Columbia)

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