Picks and Pans Review: A Night on the Town

updated 07/02/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/02/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Bruce Hornsby & the Range

Some folks have come to think of Hornsby as a latter-day Christopher Cross: a sweet but wispy stylist who surfaces once in a while with a few hummable pop hits and then vanishes. About now, with this solid third album, it may be time to concede that Hornsby is no pop pantywaist.

In fact he throws his weight around here with more authority than ever. That's especially true of the greasy-haired drum majorette strut of "Stranded on Easy Street," of the paint-mixing shake of "Another Day," of the title track, which has a bluesy heft and sway of vintage Little Feat, and of the Caucasian gospel of "Across the River," one of two songs on which Jerry Garcia plays guitar. The rest of the songs are marked by the gentle, poignant mood Hornsby has staked out previously, but he has raised those stakes a little too. "Fire on the Cross," featuring Bela Fleck on banjo and Wayne Shorter on sax, shows a passion rare in pop music.

Some tracks, like "Carry the Water," "Special Night" and "Stander on the Mountain," are worth listening to just for Hornsby's piano playing talents.

Yep, he's a fine songwriter and musician. If Hornsby looked like a poster boy instead of a hardware store salesman, he'd be a monster star by now. Maybe his looks will grow on us. It's clear he's going to be around awhile. (RCA)

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