Picks and Pans Review: Don't Explain

updated 01/21/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/21/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

Robert Palmer

Let us now praise Palmer as the Marvin Gaye of rock. He has earned the title for the emotionality of his voice, his silky style and his considerable facility with an R&B—based groove. (Many have tried and many have failed to cover later-stage Gaye. It's a singer's graveyard. Palmer's medley of "Mercy Mercy Me/I Want You" here is one of the few distinguished renditions.)

The link between the two, alas, goes deeper. Both exhibited a perverse proclivity for casting themselves as crooners. Gaye, who always wanted to be known as "the black Sinatra," was talked out of doing a standards album. Palmer, though, has insisted on sprinkling musical chestnuts into his albums. He's up to his old parlor tricks here, with such tracks as Rodgers and Hammerstein's "People Will Say We're in Love" and Ned Washington and Burton Lane's "You're My Thrill."

Palmer fans are used to this sappy quirk; it's not disastrous in itself. But there are no hot rockers here to redeem Palmer's indulgences. "Your Mother Should Have Told You" and "You're Amazing" are oddly clamorous. That's partly due to new guitarist Steve Stevens. The raucous whiplash style of the ex-Billy Idol sideman just doesn't blend with Palmer's smoothness.

Heady moments are scant. There's the jaunty "Happiness" and a punchy cover of Otis Redding's "Dreams to Remember." A problem with the latter (besides the misspelling of Redding's name on the CD credits) is that reggae's Toots Hibbert did the song better on his Toots in Memphis collection.

All told, this is the first weak release in Palmer's canon. Hey, Marvin never put out a bad record. (EMI)

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