Ralph Tresvant (MCA 10116)
Even in its teen-idol prime, New Edition was never anybody's idea of a supergroup. Since splitting up, however, the group has produced nothing but heavy-hitters: Bobby Brown, Johnny Gill, Bell Biv DeVoe, and now, Ralph Tresvant. What's their secret? Obviously, good taste in producers is part of it -- "Ralph Tresvant," for instance, leans heavily on the ever-popular team of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis -- but the real magic in these albums has been their ability to reinforce the familiar while simultaneously opening new ground. Thus, though "Ralph Tresvant" is expectedly heavy on sweet-voiced ballads like "Sensitivity," it balances those bon-bons with irresistibly tough tunes like "Stone Cold Gentleman" or the rap-tinged "Rated R."
Cinderella (Mercury 848 018)
Squawk-voiced Tom Keifer has never been anybody's idea of a Mick Jagger clone, nor has Cinderella, his band, seemed a likely heir to the Rolling Stones' throne. So how did Cinderella's "Heartbreak Station" end up sounding like the best Stones album since "Some Girls"? On some levels, this album simply extends the blues-based approach of "Long Cold Winter," buttressing that album's slide-guitar grit with solid, boogie-based grooves. But that's only on the surface; the album's real breakthrough lies in the writing. It's one thing to spin out a "Brown Sugar" variant like "Sick for the Cure," quite another to manage the sarcastic depth of "Shelter Me." But where the band really shows its stuff is in the title tune, which matches the unadorned emotion of country blues with the accessibility of a power-ballad.