Picks and Pans Review: The Raw & the Cooked

updated 03/27/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/27/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Fine Young Cannibals

Ah, sweet redemption. These two British groups have second albums that are vast improvements over their first releases. The Proclaimers are Charlie and Craig Reid, identical twins from Scotland. The Spartan folk rock on their first album was played with such a stiffness that it seemed as if they were forced into some compulsory singing competition down at the regimental mess hall. There's still a bit too much starch in their kilts, but on Sunshine on Leith (Chrysalis), the Reids have upgraded the sound by adding a full backing band, writing catchier tunes and tending to the harmonies. On "Then I Met You," designated guitarist Jerry Donahue turns in a flashy solo that would be the envy of Mark Knopfler or Richard Thompson. The title track, with its steel pedal guitar and fiddle accompaniment, has an American country twang. Then there's the playful skiffle of "I'm on My Way." While most Brits seem to lose their accent when singing, Craig Reid's grows more pronounced. Hoot, mon! it's full of burrs and thistles. With their second album, The Raw & the Cooked (I.R.S.), the Fine Young Cannibals also make better use of their resources. Roland Gift stood embarrassingly at the center of the trio's first release. The British went bonkers over his voice, even comparing him with American soul singers like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. Gift's voice, in fact, is a labored, scratchy, small instrument that he elevates to a pip-squeak falsetto with the reckless abandon of a drunk baton twirler. (The Beatles notwithstanding, the Limeys have always had the same blind spot for their homegrown singers as they have for their boxing heavyweights.) This time, however, Roland is more restrained, and the accompaniments are richer. (While Gift pursued acting between albums, the other two members of FYC, Andy Cox and David Steele, had a hit under the name Two Men, a Drum Machine & a Trumpet.) The Raw & the Cooked is not only a clever reference to the trio's name, but an apt summation of their progress. Until now, they've offered up disco tartare. This music is pretty well done. (Chrysalis; I.R.S.)

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