Bob Seger surges forward on strong 'The Fire Inside'

RECORDS

August 30, 1991|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

THE FIRE INSIDE

Bob Seger (Capitol 91134)

Bob Seger has always been good at nostalgia, both in the way his husky, care-worn voice conjures a world of lost opportunities and past glories, and in the ease with which his music recaptures the simple power of old time rock and roll. Which, perhaps, explains why "The Fire Inside," Seger's first album in five years, feels so funny at first -- instead courting the past, this one finds him looking ahead. To his credit, Seger sounds far stronger addressing the promise of potential romance in the breathless "Take a Chance" than he does lamenting lost love in the dreary "Real at the Time." But it's when Seger succeeds at something as out-of-character as Tom Waits' jazzy "New Coat of Paint" that he truly shows the advantages of moving forward, not backward.

STRAIGHT OUTTA HELL'S KITCHEN

Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam (Columbia 46035)

To anyone who remembers the girlish sound of their early hits, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam's latest album, "Straight Outta Hell's Kitchen," is nothing short of astonishing. Not only has Lisa Lisa's voice grown in strength, it has also gained enough soulful assurance to cut through almost any rhythm mix. It's a good thing, too; with half the album produced by David Cole and Robert Clivilles of C+C Music Factory and half by Full Force, the music is relentlessly danceable, from the insistent "Let the Beat Hit 'Em" to the infectious "I Like It, I Like It." Nor are the ballads anything to sneeze at, particularly when Lisa Lisa digs in as deeply as she does on "You + Me = Love."

NOTORIOUS

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (Epic/Blackheart 47488)

Usually, when hard rockers bring in professional hit makers like Desmond Child and Diane Warren, they end up trading grit for accessibility. Not Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, though. Even though more than half of "Notorious" consists of songs written with hired guns, it hasn't cost the group any of its spunk or identity. If anything, material like the Jett/Child/Warren tune "The Only Good Thing (You Ever Said Was Goodbye)" brings out the best in the band, providing it with exactly the sort of melodic focus it needs to rock harder.

THE COMFORT ZONE

Vanessa Williams (Wing/Mercury 843 522)

Look at the cover of Vanessa Williams' second album, "The Comfort Zone," and it's easy to see why people remember the deposed Miss America more for her looks than her talent. Listen to the album, though, and you'll hear why that may be changing. Where "The Right Stuff," her 1988 debut, portrayed her as a producer's vehicle, this album finds her in command as a singer. It hardly matters whether she's working with the sample-heavy groove of "Running Back to You" or the near-naked balladry of "2 of a Kind" -- Williams powers her way through both with equal ease. Consider this album proof that beauty isn't always just skin-deep.

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