'Walkin' in the Sun': Lisa Keith steps to the fore

August 27, 1993|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

WALKIN' IN THE SUN

Lisa Keith (Perspective 31454 9004)

Don't be surprised if there's something awfully familiar about the way Lisa Keith sounds on "Walkin' in the Sun." Even though this Jam & Lewis-produced album marks her debut as a solo artist, she has sung backup on enough R&B hits that odds are you've heard her a dozen times without even knowing it. And judging from the quality of material on "Walkin' in the Sun," you'll be hearing even more from her in the future. At her best, Keith delivers all the charm of Janet Jackson and twice the vocal strength; cue up "Better Than You" or "True to You," and you might think you're hearing outtakes from "janet." But Keith has enough stylistic range to push beyond that, too, moving easily from the perky pop of "Better Than You" to the tremulous balladry of "Free As You Wanna Be," to the country-gospel groove of the title tune.

BETWEEN THE SHEETS

Fourplay (Warner Bros. 45340)

Jazz purists aren't likely to get off on Fourplay's "Between the Sheets," if only because the playing is, by their standards, too bland and homogenous. But while it's true that there's a certain uniformity to the music here, it's worth wondering if Fourplay's instrumental consistency is as foolish as the purists believe. After all, it takes a certain amount of insight to find common ground between a jazz chestnut like Neil Hefti's "L'il Darlin' " and funk hit like the Isley Brothers title tune; it also requires some skill to be able to play the two equally well. But Fourplay's real strength is its instrumental restraint, an approach that values song structure and ensemble playing over self-indulgent expression. And if that seems too staid for the jazz purists, it's a pleasant change for pop fans.

RISE

Bad Brains (Epic 53951)

If ever a band has been given short shrift by history, it's the Bad Brains. Not only did this quartet virtually invent D.C. hard-core, setting the groundwork for everyone from Minor Threat to the Rollins Band, but the Brains matched jazz fusion licks with hard rock aggression long before Living Colour came along. Even so, it has taken more than a decade for the group to land a major-label deal. Fortunately, "Rise" more than makes up for the wait. Boasting stronger songs and better production than the band's recent indie albums, "Rise" captures the full range of the Bad Brains' genius, from the stop-time thrash virtuosity of "Coming in Numbers" to the deep, dub-style groove of "Love Is the Answer." Definitely an album worth discovering.

NO CODE

No Code (Clean Cuts 713)

What's the difference between good techno and bad? It isn't just the intensity of the beat -- it's the intelligence with which it's employed. Take No Code, for example. Even though No Code creator Joe Ercole works with the same sonic vocabulary as everyone else in techno, the songs on "No Code" are arranged with enough attention to dynamics that the beat never bogs down in pointless repetition; instead, there's enough ebb and flow to the music to keep both mind and body engaged, from the brisk insistence of "Moria 10" to the hushed, ambient pulse of "Lycanthropy."

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