Picks and Pans Review: The Sweet Keeper

updated 03/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Tanita Tikaram

Tikaram's mother is from Borneo. Her father is a Fijian of Indian ethnicity. Serving in the British military, he was stationed in West Germany until Tanita was 12, when the family moved to England, to the town of Basingstoke. The singer-songwriter's second album confirms the conclusion suggested by her debut, Ancient Heart, that her music is as unusual as that background.

Tikaram's style is always spare, sometimes somewhat stuffy but usually penetrating. With it, she takes a variegated approach to pop, from the crisp, light rocker "We Almost Got It Together" to the delicate folk song "It All Came Back Today," which (shades of the Incredible String Band) evokes sad feelings of regret and abandonment.

On the jazzy "Once & Not Speak," one of three songs that feature Mark Isham on trumpet, her voice is deep and a little rough, like Marianne Faithfull with a rebuilt transmission. Tikaram sounds perkier on the muffled shuffle of "Sunset's Arrived" and the tripping string swing of "I Owe All to You."

Her delivery, though, is never studied or smooth, and that makes it all the more expressive. She does get rather carried away with herself once in a while, as on the histrionic, declamatory vocal of "Thursday's Child."

Most admirable is her individuality. Tikaram both bravely resists nestling into any preestablished pop niche and makes that countercommercial stance pay off. (Reprise)

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