Rod Stewart takes a trip back in time with 'Vagabond'

RECORDS

March 29, 1991|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

VAGABOND HEART

Rod Stewart (Warner Bros. 26300)

Strictly speaking, a pop singer can't make a comeback record without first going away. Yet somehow, Rod Stewart, who hasn't taken a break from singing since before his latest wife was born, has managed to make a comeback album, anyway. "Vagabond Heart" is more than a return to form for the aging rocker -- it's almost like a trip back in time. "Rhythm of My Heart," for instance, is as soul-baringly sentimental as any ballad from "Every Picture Tells a Story," while "Moment of Glory" rocks like a forgotten Faces single. "It Takes Two" finds his voice in such fine fettle that he almost overpowers his duet partner, Tina Turner. And it's been decades since Stewart evoked Sam Cooke as clearly as he does in "Go Out Dancing."

SEX CYMBAL

Sheila E (Warner Bros.)

Contrary to popular belief, Sheila E is not simply a creation of Prince's fantasy factory. Not only did she have a recording career before making the Paisley connection, she also had her own sound. And it's that sound -- sassy, soulful and percussive -- that powers the songs on "Sex Cymbal." Although the title tune makes it plain that she knows her way around a dance beat, Sheila E refuses to limit her music to such a narrowly commercial sound. Instead, she shows off her "Funky Attitude," uncorks a nasty Latin-funk groove for "Droppin' Like Flies," then one-ups Gloria Estefan's Miamisound on "Private Party." And, as "808 Kate" proves, this is one diva who will never need a drum machine.

LE MYSTERE DES VOIX

BULGARES 3

Various Artists (Fontana 846 626)

Producer Marcel Cellier was by no means the first outsider to record Bulgarian folk music, but he is by far and away the most successful. Why? Because rather than attempting to be rigorously inclusive or musicologically enlightening, his Bulgarian compilations try only to be exquisitely beautiful. And they always are. "Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares 3" varies from its predecessors only to the extent that its vocal pieces use instrumental accompaniment -- the achingly intense "Izlel e Delio Haidutin," for instance, makes excellent use of flutes and pipes -- meaning that it will surprise old fans as easily as it charms new listeners.

NEW FRIENDS

Fred Wesley (Antilles 422-848-280)

Maceo Parker isn't the only one in James Brown's horn section with an interest in jazz. Fred Wesley, it seems, is a closet be-bopper, and -- as he demonstrates on "New Friends" -- a fine one at that. Wesley has no trouble holding his own against jazz luminaries like trumpeter Stanton Davis and pianist Gerri Allen, and even manages to show fellow trombonists Steve Turre and Robin Eubanks a few tricks. Best of all, he has a solid sense of tradition, as evinced by "Rockin' in Rhythm," a sure-footed "Birks Works" and "For the Elders," Wesley's heartfelt tribute to Slide Hampton and J. J. Johnson.

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