Picks and Pans Review: Hearts and Flowers

updated 07/23/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/23/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Joan Armatrading

Alert the media. Armatrading, one of the most distinctive and dependable of pop stylists, experiences a letdown on her latest outing. Rarely in her 14-album career has one of her albums contained so few treats.

The musical strains of "Someone's in the Background" collide in the sort of unpredictable shifts that have made Armatrading such a marvelous maverick. Then there's "Good Times." with its almost ominous instrumentation. It gets the singer's only energetic delivery on the collection. But the highlight tape material ends there.

"More than One Kind of Love" is ruined by a murky bass mix and stodgy melody. On "Can't Let Go" and the title track, percolating keyboards only make the sing-song melodies sound simpy. The chorus of "Promise Land" seems set to break out of the lethargy, but it never develops into anything interesting. "Free" is awkwardly scattered, a song that can't decide if it's a whispered ballad or a heated rocker.

Got it? Armatrading, usually a singing spice rack, comes up oddly flavorless. (A & M)

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