Picks and Pans Review: Maria Mckee

updated 06/26/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/26/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Maria McKee

Lone Justice has gone the way of most rock bands—fissionville. The happy side of that development is that McKee, the group's lead singer, has been liberated to create this smart dazzle of a solo album.

She has a penetrating, sharp-edged voice full of gospel flourishes; it makes you think of what a stained-glass window would look like done in all silver and black. As a songwriter, she is, at 24, remarkably eclectic, imaginative and witty—Dorothy Parker and Cole Porter rolled into one and rocking.

McKee wrote or co-wrote nine of the 10 songs on this album. The 10th one was worth making an exception for—Richard Thompson's "Has He Got a Friend for Me?": "Your boyfriend's good looking/ He's got it all there/ Looks like God made him/ With something to spare." But McKee doesn't need other people to come up with shrewd lyrics.

On her appealingly rueful rocker "I've Forgotten What It Was in You (That Put the Need in Me)," she sings of how quickly love's illusions can be dispelled: "Your arms were like a little paradise/ But your arms have changed." On the defiant "Can't Pull the Wool Down (Over the Little Lamb's Eyes)," she sings, "That suit you're stuck in fits you to a tee/ But you're walkin' 'round a land mine/ If you think you're bluffin' me." On "This Property Is Condemned," whose title and theme of a woman used up young both come from the Tennessee Williams play of the same name, she laments, "If you should see me/ Coughin' 'round the corner/ Won't you mix in a little sugar/ With my tonic tonight."

It makes McKee's sense of language more effective that her music has a vital, contemporary feeling that cuts across almost every pop genre. ("This Property Is Condemned," for instance, at times has a cool jazz-Joni Mitchell tone.) She has also maintained her ties with Lone Justice keyboardist Bruce Brody, His bass-based arrangements—"I've Forgotten What It Was in You," for example—are effectively rhythmic complements to McKee's style.

Listen and see if this album doesn't resemble the sound of a major career sizzling on a platter. (Geffen)

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