Picks and Pans Review: Long Time No See

updated 01/12/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/12/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

Chico DeBarge

If the name Chico DeBarge sounds familiar, it's because some of his siblings performed as the successful pop-R&B singing group DeBarge in the 1980s. And if the singer-songwriter's sound strikes a familiar chord, it's because Chico, like neo-soul crooner D'Angelo, often looks to the past for inspiration. But even though Chico's approach is somewhat derivative (as in his cover of the late Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man"), he is more than just another soul devotee. With a little collaborative help from El, his underrated big brother, Chico has created a collection of moody, sexy love songs with an ever-so-slight undercurrent of rage and sorrow. That sadness is rooted in Chico's life: He wrote many of the CD's tracks while serving a six-year sentence on drug-conspiracy charges (the album opens with the ominous sounds of clanging cell gates). It's that pain, combined with Chico's sweet, pleading voice, that makes Long Time No See a satisfying collection. (Kedar/Universal)

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