Volume 93, Issue 82
Tuesday, March 7, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Robert Palmer fails at original Rhythm And Blues attempt
Rhythm & Blues
Robert Palmer has made a long and successful career producing a unique brand of soulful pop. His popularity peaked in the mid-'80s, both as a member of the hit group Power Station and on his own, with hits such as "Some Like It Hot," "Addicted To Love" and "Simply Irresistible."
The last 10 years, however, have not proved as fruitful for Palmer. After a number of artistic and commercial failures as well as a five year break, he changed his sound and is attempting a comeback with his latest release, Rhythm And Blues.
Unfortunately, it is extremely doubtful this record is going to turn his career around. Palmer's greatest asset has always been his voice a deep, soulful croon which is as distinctive as it is powerful. The fact that the majority of vocals on this album are electronically processed is a warning it may not be up to snuff.
As well, despite the album's title, very little of its music could be classified as rhythm and blues, by any stretch of the imagination. Instead it is slick, overproduced adult-contemporary pop which is utterly devoid of soul.
Palmer played all the instruments on this album, clearly believing the product would be defined as cutting edge music. However, the result is drums which sound dated and remarkably weak, coupled with cheesy synthetic beats. Although there's nothing overly offensive on the CD, (with the exception of a reggae-tinged cover of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On"), most of the material is decidedly dull.
The track which warrants repeated listenings closes the album a simple ballad titled "Twenty Million Things," which features some wonderful interplay between the guitar and piano. It is the one reprieve from the stiff, pseudo-hip-hop sound of the rest of the album. It's also noteworthy because it's the one song in which Palmer truly sings.
Palmer seems to be in a similar situation as many other aging musicians who have seen their popularity and record sales plummet. Rather than accepting he isn't the hottest thing around, he desperately tries to stay current, resulting in mediocre music.
Let's hope for his next release, Palmer realizes his place in the music world and gets down to creating some serious Rhythm And Blues.
Aaron St. John
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