Laid-back and whimsical Jimmy Buffett is just irritating on 'Fruitcakes'

June 03, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

FRUITCAKES

Jimmy Buffett (MCA-11043)

If Jimmy Buffett really is as laid-back and likable as he makes out, why does "Fruitcakes" leave me wanting nothing so much as to smack him hard? Could it be the cookie-cutter Caribbean rhythms that make each song sound almost exactly like the next? Or is it his showy remake of the Kinks' "Sunny Afternoon," which drains both the charm and the irony from the song? No, the truly irritating thing about Buffett's trademark whimsy is that it's about as subtle as a surly drunk, grinding its nose into the listener's face and demanding that we act amused -- a tall order, given that songs like "Quietly Making Noise" or "Apocalypso" are no funnier than their titles. So do yourself a favor, and give Buffett's "Fruitcakes" as wide a berth as you'd give the Christmas kind.

THE BEAUTIFUL EXPERIENCE

Prince (NPG 710003)

No sooner did He-Who-Used-To-Be-Called-Prince close the doors on his Paisley Park empire than he uncorked his biggest hit in years, the endearingly drippy "The Most Beautiful Girl In the World." What this means in terms of the Symbolic One's career longevity is hard to say, but judging from "The Beautiful Experience," it's way too early to count him out. Even though six of the seven tracks here are mere variations on the single, they're so completely reconfigured that it's less like a remix EP than a sort of "Most Beautiful Girl" suite. There's plenty of interesting rhythm play, from the stylish techno throb of "Beautiful" to the Sly Stone-inflected dub of "Sexy Staxaphone and Guitar." But it's the "Mustang Mix," with its slow, sexy lead vocal, that really makes this EP a truly beautiful experience.

WE'LL BE TOGETHER AGAIN

Lena Horne (Blue Note 28974)

Some folks might wish for eternal youth, but the truly wise would settle for merely aging as well as Lena Horne has. Even though more than a half century has passed since she made her first recordings (with the great Teddy Wilson), "We'll Be Together Again" demonstrates that Horne's voice remains as stylish and expressive as ever. That's not to say there hasn't been some wear on her voice (understandable for a 76-year old), but Horne's careful phrasing and well-shaded vibrato keeps that from becoming an issue. In fact, she more than holds her own against Johnny Mathis on "Day Follows Day," and seems perfectly at home with the brassy funk of "Love Like This Can't Last." Class tells, as they say, but it's singers like Lena Horne that make it truly listenable.

GREAT DIVORCE SONGS FOR HER

Various Artists (Warner Bros. 45594)

GREAT DIVORCE SONGS FOR HIM

Various Artists (Warner Bros.45598)

Country, as we all know, is the last bastion of family values in popular music, so what could be more appropriate -- given the current state of the American family -- than a pair of albums like "Great Divorce Songs for Her" and "Great Divorce Songs for Him"? Tellingly, most of the songs on the "For Her" collection are variations on the theme of "what a louse he was," with Highway 101's "Someone Else's Trouble Now" serving as a particularly stellar example. But ironically enough, it's the "For Him" album that shows the most emotional range, from the traditional tear-in-my-beer approach of Eddie Rabbitt's "Drinkin' My Baby (Off My Mind)" to the barely concealed glee of Hank Williams Jr.'s "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight." Could this really be where the Men's Movement has made the most progress?

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