Picks and Pans Review: Words for Our Years

updated 12/18/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/18/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Hugh Harris

We could all live without the feeble attempts at rap and hip-hop that have come out of the British Isles, but it must be conceded that some interesting black male singers have lately emerged from Britain.

To the honor roll of Trent D'Arby, Roland Gift, the Pasadenas and Roachford, add this young man. Tracks on this debut album such as "Love Kicks," "Her Engine Froze" and "Helen Highwater" make it clear that Harris, a Londoner born to Jamaican parents, is a derivative student in the Prince school of vocals and harmonic arrangement. But he's a fetching singer.

Emotive, soulful and judiciously tempered, his voice can be both softly seductive and voraciously passionate. He also wrote all but one song on this album, the highlights of which include the ringing rocker "Alice," the pop gem "Rhythm of Life," with its springy piano motif, and a largo, minor-key rearrangement of Robert Palmer's "Woke Up Laughing." Though he's hardly as pretentious a writer as D'Arby, Harris's lyrics really don't stand up to close scrutiny very well. Try to decipher, for instance, "Music Lies Bleeding": "She came down from the mountains/ Just to open up another national theme park/ All the people came to see but didn't see/ And all ran home in the dark."

Okay, so the album title isn't germane either. These aren't, in fact, words for our years. But Harris's is certainly a voice for our time. (Capitol)

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