INTO THE LIGHT
Gloria Estefan (Epic 46988)
Gloria Estefan has never been known as one of pop music's deepest thinkers, having built her career around material that avoids issues deeper than dancing or romancing. But "Into the Light" is a very serious album, indeed. Obviously affected by last year's near-fatal bus accident, Estefan now addresses everything from faith to fatalism to family ties. Although that does lead her into some interesting new ground musically, like the gospel lite of "Coming Out of the Dark," Estefan's earnest, upbeat lyrics are long on cliche but short on inspiration. As result, the album's best moments (apart from the witty "Sex In the '90s") are simply the same sort of love songs she did before she turned serious.
The O'Jays (EMI 93390)
Anyone who thinks you can't teach an old act new tricks obviously hasn't listened to the O'Jays recently. Sure, their new album, "Emotionally Yours," opens with "Don't Let Me Down," a song boasting the same kind of sophisticated harmonizing that marked the group's Philly Soul glory days. But from there, the O'Jays try a little of everything, be it rap ("Respect," featuring a Heavy D-style rapper called the Jaz), new jack swing ("Lies"), even a bit of gospel (one of two versions of the title tune). As always, the singing is exquisite, while the production is slick, beat-savvy and song-centered -- in other words, everything a great O'Jays album should be.