Picks and Pans Review: Hold Me in Your Arms

updated 02/20/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/20/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Rick Astley

Ah, the sweet smell of success. Astley, an unheralded Anglo-soul singer, shot to dim stardom in 1988 with his debut album, Whenever You Need Somebody, which earned him a Grammy nomination as Best Newcomer. The acclaim evidently has given him more than a small boost in confidence. That's not altogether a good thing in Astley's case, as this follow-up indicates. He has written a greater proportion of his own material. More importantly, the slightly mournful basset-hound tone of voice he employed on his first record is often replaced here by a more exuberant, adventurous approach. On songs such as "She Wants to Dance with Me" and "Take Me to Your Heart," he stretches, reaches... and falls. But not too far because Astley works with a safety net: the production team of Stock-Aitken-Waterman. These rulers of the British charts custom-fit "Hold Me in Your Arms" with their now-familiar style of a little disco, a little soul, a little pop and a beat so solid you could balance a herd of elephants on it. Some of these songs have "hit" written all over them—"I Don't Wanna Lose Her," "I Don't Want to Be Your Lover" and a cover of the Temptations' 1966 hit, "Ain't Too Proud to Beg." When slightly restrained (as it is on "Dial My Number" and the nifty title track), Astley's voice is still an intriguing instrument. If you liked him the first time around, you're probably going to like him this time too. But be forewarned: Rick Astley has had enough success and time to start getting full of himself. (RCA)

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