Picks and Pans Review: West

UPDATED 05/19/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/19/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT

Mark Eitzel

When former AMC (American Music Club) founder and lead singer Mark Eitzel enlisted a songwriting collaborator for his second solo album, he picked a musician from a rather better-known triple-initial band: Peter Buck of R.E.M. Buck then recruited an instrumental group called Tuatara, whose sound includes marimba, vibes and organ. The result is a fitfully successful collection of a dozen songs.

Eitzel's voice has a careworn quality that works well when bolstered by a solid melody—notably on "Free of Harm," which is as close as this notoriously glum San Franciscan comes to a sunny love song, and "In Your Life," a good, ragged rocker that Buck originally intended for Michael Stipe & Co. These give a glimpse of what this album might have been. Too many other songs meander into a lugubrious, jazz-tinged swamp; on "Live or Die," about the 10th time Eitzel sings "No one cares if I live or die," West heads south. (Warner Bros.)

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