Picks and Pans Review: Only Human

updated 02/04/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/04/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

Jeffrey Osborne

On his sixth album, Osborne moves to a new label where company head Clive Davis takes an active interest in helping his artists—Whitney Houston, for one—select material. But in pushing Osborne into a livelier dance vein, Davis has handed this booming balladeer some bum steers.

Take "if My Brother's in Trouble." produced by dance maven Shep Pettibone. The zaftig bass and implacable Soul II Soul-like rhythm are distracting. As if to compensate. Osborne is at his most pompous, laying on this spooky low vibrato that sounds like he had Bert Lahr's Cowardly Lion as a voice coach. Then there's "Good Things Come to Those Who Wait," which has a big beat but not much melody. The song doesn't overpower Osborne. This is a guy who could make himself heard above an indoor motocross race. But who wants to hear him in a shouting match?

There are a couple of decent up-tempo songs, namely "Baby Wait a Minute," which Osborne wrote with Darryl Duncan, and a vibrant drum machine-enhanced cover of the Roberta Flack hit song "Feel Like Making Love."

The singer is at his best working with writer-producer Barry Eastmond on a series of lush ballads with unobtrusive arrangements, including "Only Human," "Sending You a Love Song." "Back in Your Arms" and the mildly country-accented "Getting Better All the Time." On "Lay Your Head." one of the album's six Eastmond-Osborne collaborations, the rhythm is accelerated, and Osborne does all these tortuous taffy-pull things to his voice again.

Its hard not to be knocked out by Osborne's talent, even when, as on this album, he's pushing too hard to showcase it. But he should have been paid scale and a half for this recording session because he sure worked overtime. (Arista)

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