TLC graduates from adolescence to maturity and gets even better

November 18, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic


TLC (LaFace 73008 26009)

Few R&B albums celebrated the exuberance of adolescence with as much style as TLC's debut, "Ooooooh . . . On the TLC Tip." It wasn't the way the producers -- mainly Dallas Austin, Daryl Simmons, L.A. Reid and Babyface -- distilled hip-hop and club beats into a catchy, utterly accessible package; there was also an honesty and intelligence to the songs that kept them from seeming like typical teen-pop product. But TLC has done some growing since then, and the trio's second album, "CrazySexyCool," has a decidedly adult bent to it. Although that's most obvious in the bedroom talk that fills out such songs as "Kick Your Game" and "Red Light Special," that's not the only area in which TLC's newfound maturity is evident. The voice of experience comes through loud and strong in the strongly worded "Case of the Fake People." The group's increased musical confidence is more than evident in "Sumthin' Wicked This Way Comes" as well as the tuneful and intoxicating "Waterfalls." It's great to see a good group grow up.


Joni Mitchell (Reprise 45786)

Over the last 15 years, Joni Mitchell has over a half-dozen albums, trying her hand at everything from retro-rock to electropop to jazz. Yet for all their probing intelligence, those albums more often than not came across as muddled and misguided, the sort of experimental work best left in the lab. Not "Turbulent Indigo," however. Mitchell sticks close to the burnished, semi-acoustic sound she perfected with "Hejira," and rather than limiting the album's stylistic range, the limited sonic palette allows us to savor the bold strokes and subtle shadings that go into each piece. That makes it easier to enjoy the undercurrent of tension added by the stormy, electric guitar chords in "Sex Kills," or to bob along with the gentle, percussive swirl of the title tune without overlooking the lyric beauty of Wayne Shorter's soprano sax solo. Add in the tuneful elegance of "Yvette in English" and the ebullient "How Do You Stop," and "Turbulent Indigo" stacks up as Mitchell's most enjoyable album in eons.


Tom Jones (Interscope 92457)

Even though Tom Jones has assumed a certain camp status in recent years (remember seeing him serenade Marge and Homer on "The Simpsons"?), there's no denying that the guy can still sing. In fact, the soulful enthusiasm that brought a sparkle to oldies like "It's Not Unusual" remains very much in evidence on "The Lead and How to Swing It." It helps, of course, that the album finds him working with some of the hottest, hippest producers in the business, from Flood (U2, Nine Inch Nails) to Teddy Riley (Bobby Brown, Michael Jackson), to Jeff Lynne (Tom Petty, George Harrison). But let's face it -- that sort of big-ticket studio gloss is meaningless without solid singing. And from the volcanic passion of "If I Knew" to the romantic understatement of "Fly Away," it's the singing that ultimately makes this album more than just a clever novelty.


Flaco Jimenez (Arista Texas 18772)

Even though he's a legend on the Norteno circuit, Flaco Jimenez is virtually unknown to most rock and country fans -- and that's a shame. In addition to being a first-rate accordion player (that's him playing behind the Stones on "Sweethearts Together"), he's also a fine singer, so it's no wonder that "Flaco Jimenez" puts as much emphasis on the vocals as the instrumentals. That's not to say conjunto fans are going to be disappointed by the offerings here; there's plenty of traditional charm to such tunes as "El Pesudo," "Open Up Your Heart" and the waltz-time "Por Las Parrandas." But we also get wonderfully weepy country ballads ("Jealous Heart"), bluesy roadhouse rockers ("Cat Walk"), and songs so soulful and energetic they could make the dead get up and dance ("Seguro Que Hell Yes").

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