Unexpected musical variety gives soundtrack from 'Juice' zest

January 24, 1992|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

JUICE

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Soul 10462)

After the success of rap-powered albums from the films "New Jack City" and "Boyz N the Hood," it should hardly be surprising to find a host of hip-hop stars holding forth on the soundtrack from "Juice." What is unexpected, however, is the musical variety represented here. Sure, there's plenty of tough-talk along the lines of M. C. Pooh's "Sex, Money & Murder" and Cypress Hill's "Shoot 'Em Up," but there are also eloquent cautionary tales, like Eric B. & Rakim's muscular "Juice (Know the Ledge)." But for sheer listening pleasure, it's hard to top Aaron Hall's well-sung "Don't Be Afraid" or the brassy, '70s-style soul of the Brand New Heavies' "People Get Ready."

THE AMERICAN IN ME

Steve Forbert (Geffen 24459)

Growing old gracefully has never been a particularly rock and roll thing to do, but few pop musicians have ever expressed the regret and disillusionment of advancing adulthood as eloquently as Steve Forbert does on "The American in Me." Some of that stems from the strength of his writing, as with "Born Too Late," a reflection on diminished expectations that captures in one song what John Mellencamp has spent two albums trying to say, and some from the way his husky, straightforward singing can convey such a wide range of emotions. But mostly, it's because the balance Forbert strikes between rock grandiloquence and folk song intimacy makes it hard not to be drawn in by the sound of the album.

ON TRACK

Buckwheat Zydeco (Charisma 91822)

Unlike zydeco legend Clifton Chenier, Stanley "Buckwheat" Dural isn't satisfied with bringing R&B to zydeco; he wants to bring zydeco to rock and roll. Granted, that's easier said than done, but as Buckwheat Zydeco's new album makes plain, he's definitely "On Track." After all, how many other zydeco performers could have managed the Hendrix-meets-zydeco fusion Buckwheat delivers with his version of "Hey Joe," or done as credible a job with a song as soulful as Solomon Burke's "Cry to Me"? Besides, Buckwheat's interest in rock and roll doesn't prevent him from cutting loose with a few old-fashioned two steps like "Everything Hurts" and the title tune, although the joy in those performances may make you wonder why he wants to be a rock and roller.

REGULAR JOE

Joe Diffie (Epic 47477)

By calling his new album "Regular Joe," Joe Diffie is trying to emphasize that he's just an average guy. Which he may well be, but as the songs here make plain, Diffie is a better-than-average singer who has a hard time overcoming mediocre material. That's not to say that "Regular Joe" is a disappointment; as the title tune shows, he knows how to ride a rockin' honky-tonk rhythm section, and his yodeling delivery on "Startin' Over Blues" is certainly a treat. But no matter how much his phrasing may try to ornament "Ain't That Bad Enough," there's no disguising its dependence on cliche, and songs like that turn up a little too regularly here.

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