Picks and Pans Review: Gemini

updated 04/03/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/03/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

El DeBarge

Wouldn't you like to fly in his beautiful balloon? DeBarge's voice is so smooth, sweet and high, listening to it is like taking a cloud-skimming ride aboard a helium balloon. Through most of his career, the arrangements and songs he has applied that instrument to have also been lighter than air. But El rectifies that situation on Gemini, his finest record to date, as a solo act and with his family in the now-defunct De-Barge. On the first track there's no way to tell that this is the same man. The fabulously frisky "Real Love" parks El's distinctive pipes in the background, using instead the mechanized vocal technique pioneered by Roger Troutman and Zapp. DeBarge's cherubic voice soon regains control on the more pop-oriented "Cross My Heart" and the crisp up-tempo ballad "Somebody Loves You," which features some intricately arranged background vocals.

As the album proceeds, he begins to revert to his taffy-pull pop style, but mostly he delivers even these stickier entries in a manner so suave and seemingly without effort that it's quite palatable. So maybe certain songs, like "After You," are irredeemable tripe. All in all, this is a very satisfying record from a guy who often seemed as if he might just dry up and blow away. (Motown)

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