Great White (Capitol 95330)
Other hard rock acts might grow bigger and more bloated with each passing album, but not Great White. If anything, the music on "Hooked" is so lean and mean it makes the stripped-down sound of "Twice Shy," the group's last album, seem almost ornate. Granted, the group still has a weakness for mushy sentimentality, as soppy ballads like "Lovin' Kind" demonstrate, but elsewhere the band is strictly business. Whether backing Jack Russell's Zeppelinesque vocals with gritty slide guitar in "Congo Square" or getting down to boogie basics with "Call It Rock and Roll," Great White gets the job done with a minimum of fuss. Now if only the group would do something about its sexist taste in cover art. . . .
NIGHT RIDE HOME
Joni Mitchell (Geffen 24302)
Say what you will for Joni Mitchell's way with words, it has always been the music that ultimately made her songs matter, both the crisp, conversational melodies and their lithe, carefully shaded accompaniment. Nor has that changed any, for "Night Ride Home" is far more persuasive as pop than as poetry, and not just because "Slouching Towards Bethlehem," Mitchell's attempt to rewrite W. B. Yeats' "The Second Coming," is overreaching and unnecessary. Fact is, Mitchell says more in the loping, jazzy rhythms of "Cherokee Louise" or the dreamy harmonies of "The Only Joy In Town" than any lyric sheet ever could. And in the long run, that's what makes this clean, well-crafted album her most satisfying work in years.