Picks and Pans Review: It's Real

updated 08/21/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/21/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

James Ingram

Let the rest of the nation go kinder and gentler. Ingram is going against the grain, getting mean and nasty. After devoting years to ameliorative balladry, he has come back with a deliciously hard-edged, up-tempo collection—or at least half of one. The jam starts with the title track, a disarmingly simple, fully arresting funk tune produced by new jack-swing impresario Gene Griffin. The first half of It's Real doesn't let up. All the hands on the production tiller—Griffin, Ingram, Bernard Taylor and Gerald Levert with Marc Gordon—keep this ship steaming full speed ahead. Like a man held back for too long, Ingram lets loose, with his voice sounding as hot and passionate as the music, particularly on "Love Come Down."

On the second half, the singer reverts to the easygoing persuasion on which his reputation is staked. Though he sings the blazes out of slower tunes like "Love 1 Day at a Time," the soft mood is a letdown after the intense heat that preceded it. Obviously, Ingram hasn't lost his touch for sensitivity, but it's a joy to hear him busting loose. (Warner Bros.)

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