Roger Clinton's not-so-eagerly awaited album isn't all that bad

September 30, 1994|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

NOTHING GOOD COMES EASY

Roger Clinton (Pyramid 71826)

If nothing else, Roger Clinton certainly has courage. After all, how many other semi-talented singers would dare put the words Nothing Good" in the title of their first album? To be honest, though, "Nothing Good Comes Easy" isn't all that bad an effort. Not only does he stay on pitch throughout, but he actually manages to navigate the album's super-slick arrangements with some semblance of style. Granted, his voice doesn't have much character to it, and there's little that's memorable about his material -- which ranges from the Eddie Money-ish "Brother Brother" to the pallid soul of "Different Man" -- but that just makes him bland, not bad. As for whether anyone will actually buy the album for its musical value, ask yourself: Did anyone drink Billy Beer for the taste?

DIVINE INTERVENTION

Slayer (American 45522)

Even by the usual blood-and-guts standards of death metal, the stuff on Slayer's "Divine Intervention" seems just a tad extreme. It isn't just the throat-wrenching singing that powers songs like "Killing Fields" or "Serenity in Murder"; frankly, that sort of vocal bloodlust is fairly common in the genre. Nor is it the full-color photo inside the CD showing how a fan had carved the band's name into his arm (don't try that at home!). And though the band's sound -- an ear-punishing swirl of snarling guitars and sucker-punch drums -- is harder and heavier than before, even this doesn't raise Slayer appreciably above the death metal norm. No, what seems most disturbing about "Divine Intervention" is the marriage of sex and homicide outlined

(without any hint of satire) in the likes of "213" or "Sex.Murder.Art." To describe sexual victimization as enthusiastically as Slayer does here isn't daring -- it's disgusting. Consequently, there's nothing at all "Divine" about this album.

MAMOUNA

Bryan Ferry (Virgin 39838)

Bryan Ferry has been doing the soulful sophisticate routine for so long that it may take a few songs before most listeners realize that "Mamouna" is a new album. That's not entirely a complaint, mind you; certainly, anyone who enjoyed the sound of "Boys and Girls" or "Bete Noire" will have few complaints with the silken grooves and murmured vocals he provides. "N.Y.C.," for instance, is a stylish slice of high-gloss funk that manages to convey both the glitter and grime of Manhattan nightlife, while the dark, snaky rhythm arrangement beneath "Gemini Moon" lends a wonderful sense of sexual tension to Ferry's singing. Trouble is, once Ferry gets past setting the mood, he too often finds himself with nothing to say, and apart from the album's haunting title tune, there's relatively little in the way of memorable music here.

GOING BACK HOME

Ginger Baker Trio (Atlantic 82652)

It would be hard to imagine a less likely combination of musicians than the Ginger Baker Trio. What could a drummer whose best-known work was with Cream and Blind Faith possibly have in common with avant-garde guitarist Bill Frisell and Ornette Coleman's original bass player, Charlie Haden? Quite a lot, actually. In fact, "Going Back Home" finds the threesome delivering one of the year's most daring and discursive jazz albums. Drawing from a repertoire that ranges from such standards as "Straight No Chaser" to oddly sweet originals like "When We Go," the playing ebbs and flows like a friendly chat, and though the harmonic language can be difficult at times, it's always easy to follow the thread of the conversation. Best of all, the three trade rhythmic and melodic roles so freely that the listener can't help but be drawn into the fray. As delightful a surprise as Pat Metheny's early albums.

ANYTHING GOES

C+C Music Factory (Columbia 66160)

In pop music, artistic ambition is usually a good thing, since chance-taking and experimentation often lead to all kinds of exciting new sounds. So why does C+C Music Factory's obviously ambitious "Anything Goes" seem such a hopeless muddle? Mainly because it tries to do too much to have any sense of musical cohesion. There's nothing tying the bass-heavy beats of "Do You Wanna Get Funky" to the stuttering dancehall groove of "Gonna Love U Over" or the percussive fury of "Robi-Rob's Boriqua Anthem" -- despite the fact that each track on its own sounds great. Worse, the overabundance of talent here almost seems to obscure the identity of C+C themselves, until this seems less a group effort than some sort of bizarre compilation album. Truth is, without a stronger sense of musical identity and focus, "Anything" doesn't go.

11 TRACKS OF WHACK

Walter Becker (Giant 24579)

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