Picks and Pans Review: So Happy

updated 09/11/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/11/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Eddie Murphy

Murphy is the 900-lb. gorilla of showbiz. He sits wherever he wants. If tomorrow he decided to film a documentary on snails, the Hollywood studios would fall over each other to finance it. Instead he has chosen to continue with his singing career. Even though his first musical album, How Could It Be?, bombed, do you really think any semi-sane record executive would reject the golden boy's follow-up?

Surprisingly, So Happy is a solid, adroit and winning effort. Of course, one of the benefits of Murphy's heavy-weight status is that he gets to work with top-shelf producers like Narada Michael Walden, Nile Rogers and Larry Blackmon. But the music on So Happy is not only superbly produced, it's also funkier and more spirited than Murphy's first effort. Eddie's voice is smoother and more stylish, particularly on the seductive "With All I Know."

Ironically, Murphy, who has gotten abundant comic mileage out of mocking Michael Jackson's effeminate delivery, has his best moments here when falling into the Gloved One's style on the jaunty funk groove of "Put Your Mouth on Me." He also does a fair Prince imitation on "Pretty Please." Sporadically, though, he still hits notes that sound thin and awkward, for instance on the ballad "Tonight." And when he tries to get suave like some fey British pop star, it's atrocious. Your cousin Lenny sounds better in the shower.

Face it: If his name were Sidney Gandolph instead of Eddie Murphy, his pipes wouldn't earn him a recording contract. The merit system is not in effect here. Not yet. But if Murphy keeps improving this much with each release, he will earn all the attention he now attracts so effortlessly. (Columbia)

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