Picks and Pans Review: Shadows and Light

updated 06/15/1992 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/15/1992 01:00AM

Wilson Phillips

What Crosby, Stills and Nash were to the late '60s, Wilson Phillips is to the aborning '90s: a vocal trio that fits the Zeitgeist like a luger's suit. Of course, we're talking different geists for different zeits. The spirit of these times is videogenic, slicker, more concerned with marketing than talent. Ideal for these gals.

Their saccharine, sanitized songs are perfect for radio. Publicity is assured because of their lineage, with bloodlines going back to the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas. And they solved that all-important video angle by pushing the high-cheekboned Phillips to the fore.

The only song on their second release presented with any exuberance is "It's Only Life." The rest is wispy and anemic, whether it's the ballad "You Won't See Me Cry," the Madonna-like dance number "Give It Up," the anthem for abused children, "Where Are You" or Carnie and Wendy's autobiographical plaint to their father, Brian Wilson, "Flesh and Blood."

The performances are stiff and solemn, right down to the singers' enunciation, which makes them sound like Scandinavian pop stars who learned English phonetically. The compositions all sound as if they were written for the sound track of a bad teenage romance movie, for that inevitable scene after girl loses boy when our heroine walks alone pensively on the beach. Sigh.

The record would be unbearably bloated and soggy were it not for producer Glen Ballard, who once again provides the trio with clear, bracing arrangements. So what you're left with is beautifully produced fluff. (SBK)

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