Stage-show 'Tommy' diminished by larger scale

July 23, 1993|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

THE WHO'S TOMMY

Original Cast Recording (RCA 61874)

Over the years, the abuse "Tommy" has endured from arrangers and directors has been far more sadistic than anything Uncle Ernie ever meted out, so it hardly seems fair to complain about the relatively minor liberties taken by the current Broadway version of the rock opera. That said, it's hard to imagine the Who fan who would prefer the cast recording of "The Who's Tommy" to the original. It isn't just that robust, stage-show vocals often ring false with these melodies, or that the cast's English accents are embarrassingly exaggerated; what ultimately undoes this project is that by inflating the scale of these songs, this new version exposes the flaws in the weakest songs while adding little to the strongest. And while the extra razzle-dazzle may be stunning onstage, it fails to impress on the stereo.

NO TIME TO KILL

Clint Black (RCA 66239)

Given the ease with which his voice slips into catch-in-his-voice emotionalism, it's no wonder Clint Black likes singing heartbreak ballads. And "No Time to Kill" certainly has its share of sad songs, including a memorably maudlin duet with Wynonna Judd called "A Bad Goodbye." But Black shines brightest when he and his band are in high gear; as such, "No Time" really kills on the uptempo tunes -- particularly "State of Mind" and the pun-filled "All Tuckered Out." And though fiddler Stuart Duncan threatens to steal the spotlight from time to time, the most impressive instrumental moment is Black's harmonica break at the end of "A Good Run of Bad Luck" -- proof that he'd have a career even if he couldn't sing.

SHOW ME LOVE

Robin S. (Atlantic 82509)

Because dance music is usually judged on a single-by-single basis, few house divas ever have much success on the album end of things. Robin S. may prove an exception to that rule. Granted, the best moments on "Show Me Love" are house-style club numbers like the stomping, bass-driven title tune or the equally danceable "Love for Love," but those are hardly the only tracks worth hearing. S., it turns out, is just as at comfortable with melody as with rhythm, and does wonders with both the luscious balladry of "What I Do Best" and the gospel-inflected intensity of "Who's Gonna Raise the Child."

RUMBLE DOLL

Patti Scialfa (Columbia 44223)

Joke if you must about her being the boss's wife, but the fact of the matter is that Patti Scialfa is very much her own woman on "Rumble Doll." Even though husband Bruce Springsteen does provide guitar and "additional production" on two tracks, the writing is all hers and so is the sensibility. That doesn't always work to her advantage, since Scialfa's melodic imagination is neither as strong nor as consistent as her singing, and the arrangements often lack the drama of Springsteen's best work. But Scialfa does have a wonderful sense of how to reconcile rock's past and present, and the album's strongest songs, like the dreamy "In My Imagination" or the arching, melancholy "Charm Light," are blessed with an almost timeless appeal.

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