Picks and Pans Review: Up to No Good

updated 04/30/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/30/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Peter Wolf

Like Mick Jagger, Wolf has a limited but saucy voice. Like Jagger, his salvation has always been having good material to sing, both in the J. Geils Band and on his own. He scores again here. Or at least he seems to. (More on that equivocation later.)

He lays on soulful, kicking jams in "Lost in Babylon" and "99 Worlds." He bangs out rocking stomps, Mitch Rider-influenced ("Go Wild") and Bruce Springsteen-influenced ("Arrows and Chains"). There's a Graham Parker-like ballad, "When Women Are Lonely," as well as Jimmie Lee Sloas's Jackson bass riff that makes "Drive All Night" so catchy.

Sorry for all the source citings, but there's something undeniably derivative about most of Wolfs compositions. Maybe that's why this record, like Wolfs last, sounds best the first time you take the shrink wrap off. With repeated listenings, it begins to seem thin and secondhand.

It might help for Wolf to get a top-line producer to add a little depth and sonic propulsion to his slick arrangements. (A logical choice might be producer Peter Wolf—no relation—who has worked with Starship, Big Country and Lou Gramm.) You get the sense that Wolf is an avid student of rock, pop and R&B styles. He makes a faithful, often canny presentation of what he has learned from them. In the final analysis though, his stuff too often seems to be an imitation of the masters. (MCA)

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