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Unsilent Nights. . . : Four Stars Being Best, a Guide to the Top 40

December 13, 1987

12. * * * * U2, "The Joshua Tree," Island. The music is more tailored and assured, the lyrics are more consistently focused and eloquently designed than in past albums, and Bono Hewson's singing underscores the band's expressions of disillusionment and hope with new-found power and passion. The LP confirms that U2 is what the Rolling Stones ceased being years ago--the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world. (R. H.)

13. * * 1/2 TIFFANY. "Tiffany" MCA. The most successful of the new crop of teen pop stars sounds like a young Stevie Nicks singing in front of a small army of synthesizers and drum machines. Her bouncy update of "I Think We're Alone Now" hit No. 1, but some of the new material falls flat. (P. G.)

14. * * 1/2 INXS, "Kick," Atco. The songs that combine INXS' new-found power-chord kick with the dance rhythms that have been the hallmark of its hit singles are the ones that shine with power and originality. The band's adeptness at constructing spare instrumental tracks helps mask a basic lack of fundamental song skills, and the lyrics are best left unexamined. (C. W.)

15. * * * GEORGE HARRISON, "Cloud Nine," Dark Horse. Harrison neither denies his Beatle past nor panders to it, helping make this the most pleasing pure pop offering from a former Moptop since 1973's "Ringo." The arrangements are generally spare, but the spotlight is on Harrison trademarks that automatically recall that long time ago. (Steve Hochman)

16. * * * BILLY IDOL, "Vital Idol," Chrysalis. Even in his Generation X days, Idol was keenly aware of the dance elements inherent in even the most searing of punk/New Wave tunes. Now, The Sneer has opened up his more popular solo tracks to the X-ray-like remix format, and--in large part thanks to producer Keith Forsey's blast-furnace mixes--it works like a charm. (John Voland)

17. * * 1/2 DOKKEN, "Back for the Attack," Elektra. Some of the songwriting has that studio-rush, isn't-this-awesome hastiness about it that the band was thought to have abandoned in favor of a more commercial approach last year. More of the salad-days metallic grind is back, but so are the bonehead lyrics and unimaginative tunes, and guitar hero George Lynch is too obsessed with effects and tricks for a die-hard metallurgist. (J. V.)

18. * * * 1/2 R.E.M., "Document," I.R.S. A tougher, meaner, leaner album than its immediate predecessors, with a far more hard-edged guitar sound and tenser rock rhythms. And the opaque mystery that was so enticingly R.E.M. has been largely replaced with something more definite and immediately tangible, though side trips--psychedelic, political and otherwise--are plentiful. (C. W.)

19. * * * FLEETWOOD MAC, "Tango in the Night," Warner Bros. As arresting and unique a work in its time as "Rumours" and "Tusk" were in theirs. The main reason is arranger, co-producer and dominant writer/singer Lindsey Buckingham's adventurous approach. The album is characterized by a pervasive, unsettling weirdness, and even the relatively conventional material benefits from the subtly bizarre undercurrents Buckingham creates. (S. H.)

20. * * * BELINDA CARLISLE, "Heaven on Earth," MCA. A big improvement over Carlisle's nondescript debut solo album. As long as she finds more songs that encourage her to come on strong and fewer that make her sound wimpy and undistinguished, Carlisle should have no problem living up to the potential she showed during her Go-Go's years. (C. J.)

21. * * * STEVIE WONDER, "Characters," Motown. The hit single "Skeletons," which has a funky R&B sound, is the clear highlight of Wonder's first album in two years, but it's not representative of the LP. The songs are mostly pop-minded, and they range from good to very good. But the album lacks the sense of unity and purpose--well, the character --that marks Wonder's best collections. (P. G.)

22. * * * RICHARD MARX, "Richard Marx," Manhattan. This debut album yielded two smash hits, including "Don't Mean Nothing," a searing, Eagles-like rocker that features the former members of that '70s supergroup. On that cut and others, Marx combines rock textures and attitudes with pop's attention to melody and craft. (P. G.)

23. YES, "Big Generator," Atco. The former prog-rock-giant-turned-'80s-hit-machine aims low on its follow-up to 1983's "90125" with an album notable primarily for the silly pseudo-spiritual prattlings of singer Jon Anderson and a hodgepodge of borrowed musical styles. (S. H.)

24. * * 1/2 HEART, "Bad Animals," Capitol. Ann Wilson is still the best female belter in rock, and this album is loaded with slow, savory, impassioned rockers. The songs are tamer and slicker than Heart's '70s sound, and this album is strictly for those who prefer their rock laced with pop. (D. H.)

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