* 1/2 MARLON JACKSON. "Baby Tonight." Capitol. * * 1/2 LEVERT. "The Big Throwdown." Atlantic. Former Jacksons member Marlon Jackson has produced his own debut solo album and written most of the tracks. He shows promise, especially when it comes to cooking up a chunky, fat-bottomed dance jam. But as a singer, Jackson is toe-curlingly bad. (And unlike the street vernacular in big brother Michael's hit of the same name, that ain't good.) It's admirable that Jackson wants to chart his own path (the only other family members to appear on the record are his wife and three children), but Jackson's independent spirit just might be clouding his objectivity. Michael Jackson, he isn't. And it's doubtful that even Jesse Jackson could sing this poorly.
The album does contain three interesting cuts: "Life," a rocker that warns of the obstacles that one faces in the world; "She Never Cried," a tale of a single mother's struggles told from her child's perspective; and "Where Do I Stand," a yearning, bring-on-the-strings symphonic ballad. Jackson could probably map out a successful career for himself as a producer/composer for other artists. If his voice was only as on-the-money as some of his melodic ideas, this album would have been a delight.