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Picks and Pans Review: Five O'clock Hero

updated 10/20/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/20/1997 01:00AM

Matt King

Stetson-topped male country singers are a dime a dozen these days. Thus, many of these poster boys' handlers bet that the surest route to a pot o' gold record is to make a loud, in-your-face first impression. But Matt King's debut CD begins with the quiet ballad "A Woman's Tears" and his current single "A Woman Like You" is a low-key, contemplative piece as well. King's careermeisters know that there's strength in these numbers and have dealt the public a slow hand; because, while he sports a pleasant set of pipes, it is King's songs—he wrote or cowrote all 11 cuts—that grab the spotlight. Whether saluting blue-collar workers or his own Appalachian roots, King's tunes brim with unflagging honesty. Produced by '80s chart topper Gary Morris, Hero is a solid start for a promising—and, so far, hatless—new talent. (Atlantic)

THE PHILLY SOUND: KENNY GAMBLE, LEON HUFF & THE STORY OF BROTHERLY LOVE 1966-1976

In a market glutted with reissues it's nice to come upon a collection that offers more than just remastered versions of the greatest hits. Not that this three-CD anthology of Philly Soul doesn't have those: Billy Paul's "Me and Mrs. Jones," the O'Jays' joyous "Love Train" and the anguished "If You Don't Know Me By Now" from Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes—they're all here. But this collection also shines a light on such lesser-known songs as "The Bells" by Laura Nyro and Labelle and on singers who may not have made the mainstream like Dee Dee Sharp ("Ooh Child") and Bunny Sigler ("Regina"). Finally, this collection documents the sweeping approach of producer-writers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. At a politically polarized time, they wrote songs that were unafraid to take sides. Yet the Philly Sound knew no boundaries. Gamble and Huff swirled together disco, jazz, R&B and classical into a liberating and influential brand of pop that sounds as passionate today as it did back then. (Epic/Legacy)

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