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RECORD RACK

* * * * Great Balls of Fire * * * Good Vibrations * * Maybe Baby * Running on Empty : : SOMNAMBULANT SOUL

September 06, 1987|CONNIE JOHNSON

* * "ALPHABET CITY." ABC. Mercury. The most clever cut here is the homage to Smokey Robinson, "When Smokey Sings," a song complete with Motown-ish horn arrangements and references to other soul-music innovators such as Sly Stone and Marvin Gaye. Elsewhere, this British duo sings tunes with interesting lyrics ("King Without a Crown") and disco-edged rhythms ("The Night You Murdered Love"), but it doesn't generate much warmth. The songs are laced with too much somnambulant cool. When a British reporter interviewed Robinson back in the early '70s, Robinson noted that songwriting doesn't mean much if it's "just a bunch of words put together to make a rhyme." It's nice that ABC recognizes an innovator when they see one. But translating that into passionate songwriting that really says something is a different matter altogether.

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