Gill's 'Provocative' just doesn't live up to its name

RECORDS

June 11, 1993|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

PROVOCATIVE

Johnny Gill (Motown 37463 6355)

With all due respect to Johnny Gill, it's probably a mistake to call an album "Provocative" when it isn't, really. Sexy, soulful and well-sung? Sure. At this point, Gill does the deep-voiced soul man shtick better than anyone in the business, and his performance on tunes like "Long Way from Home" or the Marvin Gaye-ish "A Cute, Sweet, Love Addiction" offers a near-perfect combination of sensitivity and power. Even better, he can move from the steamy insinuation of "Mastersuite" to the bass-pumping insistence of "The Floor" without straining either his voice or the listener's credulity. Still, that hardly excuses the title, since the only thing this album is likely to provoke is sales.

14 SONGS

Paul Westerberg (Sire 45255)

Inasmuch as he was always considered the creative force behind the Replacements, it's ironic that Paul Westerberg is the last of the group to deliver a solo album. Then again, given the uneven sound of "14 Songs," maybe he should have waited a little longer before taking the plunge. Westerberg has always known how to highlight the soft-hearted sentimentality lurking beneath new wave's tough-guy pose, and the best of these 14 -- like "Someone I Once Knew" or "First Glimmer" -- evoke that heartbreak cool with effortless aplomb. The rest, though, run the gamut from glib rave-ups to solipsistic balladry, offering facile choruses and clever arrangements but nothing of consequence. Perhaps a smarter title would have been "Eight Songs."

SUPERMODEL OF THE WORLD

RuPaul (Tommy Boy 1058)

When RuPaul's hyper-glamorous, ultra-campy "Supermodel" first popped up on music video channels, a lot of listeners were tempted to dismiss the drag diva as mere comic relief. But "Supermodel of the World" argues otherwise, suggesting that RuPaul takes music just as seriously as she (he?) takes his (her?) wardrobe. As with "Supermodel," most of the music here is hook-heavy and house-driven, from the brassy stomp of "House of Love" to the booming bass of "Miss Lady DJ." But the album's most impressive moments are those that find RuPaul paying tribute to tradition, be it musical (as with the '70s soul groove beneath "Supernatural") or tonsorial (as in the beauty shop homage of "Back to My Roots"). Who knows? Ru may move from "Supermodel" to "superstar" yet.

BEAU JOCQUE BOOGIE

Beau Jocque and His Zydeco Hi-Rollers

(Rounder 2120)

Unlike Cajun music, which uses lilting two-steps and waltz cadences to lure dancers onto the floor, zydeco favors rhythms so chugging and relentless that listeners have no choice but to move with the beat. And nobody kicks that groove into gear more convincingly than Beau Jocque and His Zydeco Hi-Rollers. Crank up a copy of "Beau Jocque Boogie," and what you'll hear is non-stop party music, combining the accordion-and-washboard flavor of classic Clifton Chenier with the hypnotic intensity of a John Lee Hooker blues boogie. No wonder Beau Jocque is Southwestern Louisiana's latest rage -- his music is driving, danceable and dangerously addictive.

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