Gill shifts musical gears without losing believability

September 18, 1992|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

I STILL BELIEVE IN YOU

Vince Gill (MCA 10630)

As a stylist, Vince Gill is nothing if not versatile. In the space NTC of three songs, "I Believe in You," his new album, moves from the slick country rock of the Eagles-ish "Don't Let Our Love Start Slippin' Away" to the classic honky-tonk balladry of "No Future in the Past," to the plaintive white-soul groove of "Nothing Like a Woman." Yet as much as it might seem that Gill's genre-jumping is just his attempt to be all things to all listeners, what he's really being is true to his songs. And it's his ability to sound as at home with the banjo and fiddle of the bluegrass-inflected "Pretty Words" as he is among the slickly arranged synthesizers of the title tune that makes this album so believable.

SWEET OBLIVION

Screaming Trees (Epic 48996)

Like many of the bands "discovered" during Seattle's grunge rock gold rush, Screaming Trees is hardly a newcomer to the scene. In fact, "Sweet Oblivion," the quartet's current album, is its sixth long-player to date. And frankly, it shows, both in the quality of the writing and the calibre of the playing. Mark Lanegan's dark, throaty rasp may put some listeners in mind of the Cult's Ian Astbury, but there's none of that band's blithering bombast here. Instead, the Screaming Trees' sound is lean and tightly-coiled, offering the same balance between tunefulness and intensity that fuels Pearl Jam's "10." As a result, "Sweet Oblivion" is pure bliss, from the hard-and-catchy "Nearly Lost You" to the rangy psychedelia of "Butterfly."

YOU GOTTA BELIEVE

Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch(Interscope 92203)

Poor Marky Mark. Even though he and the Funky Bunch sold a couple million copies of their debut, "Music for the People," they got no respect from the business (which credited the M's success to the production savvy of his brother, New Kid Donnie Wahlberg) or the press (which wrote him off as being better at dropping his drawers than dropping rhymes). No wonder, then, that the Markster spends most of "You Gotta Believe" complaining that it's time for him to get his propers -- that is, the respect he so clearly thinks he deserves. Trouble is, the Mark Man has little to say, and already said most of it on the last album. So apart from the playful "Loungin'," most of this comes across as a not-quite-instant replay, from the "Good Vibrations" groove of "Gonna Have a Good Time" to the "Wildside" rewrite, "The American Dream."

I HEARD YOU TWICE THE FIRST TIME

Branford Marsalis (Columbia 46083)

Wynton isn't the only Marsalis inclined to fold the past into the present on his albums. Just listen to the way his brother Branford plays around with the blues on his latest, "I Heard You Twice the First Time." Impressive as the cameos are -- B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, and Linda Hopkins are among the guests here -- the interest lies less with who's playing than where Branford and his band take them, leading King through the Ellingtonian changes of "B.B.'s Blues," for example, or slipping be-bop harmonies into a Hooker stomp like "Mabel." Even better is the way "Heard You Twice" connects the work-chant cadences of "Berta, Berta" to the Bechet-style blues of "Sidney In Da Haus" and the 'Trane-like extrapolations of "Brother Trying to Catch a Cab (On the East Side) Blues." It's worth hearing, every time.

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