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

December 13, 1987

25. * * 1/2 KENNY G, "Duotones" Arista. This saxophonist had the instrumental hit of the year with the soothing, classy "Songbird." The rest of the album blends soothing yuppie lullabies with more spirited material like a remake of Jr. Walker's "What Does It Take (to Win Your Love)." (P. G.)

26. * * * VARIOUS ARTISTS "A Very Special Christmas" (A&M). Because this 15-song collection lacks a single, unifying vision, it doesn't replace Phil Spector's mid-'60s jewel with Darlene Love and others as the best Christmas package of the rock era. But the "Special Christmas"--whose parade of stars includes Madonna, U2 and Run-D.M.C.--may well be the runner-up. (R. H.)

27. * KISS, "Crazy Nights," PolyGram. Make-up and members may come and go, but the songs pretty much remain the same. This is competently executed but numbing metal-by-the-numbers, from the ode to headbanging, "Crazy, Crazy Nights," to stoopid single-entendre exercises like "Bang Bang You." (D. S.)

28. * * * STEVE WINWOOD, "Chronicles," Island. This album features highlights of Winwood's last four LPs--from the majestic "While You See a Chance" to the classy "Higher Love." But it's missing most of the big hits from the last album, "Back in the High Life," including "The Finer Things" and "Freedom Overspill." Perhaps they're being saved for "Chronicles II." (P. G.)

29. * * EXPOSE, "Exposure," Arista. Though Latinized disco dominates, it's on the album's dreamily yearning ballads ("Seasons Change," "December") that this Florida girl group really exposes its talent. Otherwise, more spice is definitely called for. (C. J.) 30. * * POISON. "Look What the Cat Dragged In." Enigma. These local boys are making good behind a collection of burnished bubble-glam: rock-solid rhythms, streamlined guitar riffing, and loads of vocal harmonies. Pedestrian, but tuneful and feisty. And, boy, do the little girls understand. (D. S.)

31. * * * ANITA BAKER, "Rapture," Elektra. Baker became a star on the strength of this eight-song collection of warmly evocative mood music for grown-ups. The diminutive singer's rich, darkly shaded vocals made her one of 1986's best musical discoveries. (C. J.).

32. 1/2 JETHRO TULL, "The Crest of a Knave," Chrysalis. Apparently the 600 people who participated in the marketing research that determined this album's song selection and running order are real fond of Dire Straits, because that's what a lot of the record sounds like. The lyrics carry little bark and even less bite, and Ian Anderson sounds too tired to care. (S. H.)

33. * * 1/2 RUSH. "Hold Your Fire," Mercury. The power and the glory of the band's instrumental assault remain fully exposed, but some of the group's more annoying traits (those lyrics! those orchestrations!) are creeping back into the mix. In sum: a small step backward, but no great leap for Rush's kind. (J. V.)

34. * * * MADONNA, "You Can Dance," Sire. Madonna's originals pale next to the elaborate disco orchestrations on this collection of extended remixes of her best dance tunes. There's one new song, "Spotlight," whose long, hard-driving closing passage is guaranteed to turn dancers on. (D. H.)

35. * * 1/2 PET SHOP BOYS, "Actually," EMI-America. This brand of pop , sung in a deadpan manner and with a heavy emphasis on money and all the nice things it can buy, is a tad soulless. The boys do tend to take themselves a bit seriously --with most of the songs delivered as if to imply that they contain Very Big Ideas. Only on the post-disco "It's a Sin" is that device justified. (C. J.)

36. * * * SQUEEZE, "Babylon and On," A&M. This comeback LP is a vast improvement over Squeeze's last record. It features tight, sprightly songs that dissect the attraction/repulsion of romantic love. What really gives them staying power is the fact that they sound so great. (Kristine McKenna)

37. * * * EARTH, WIND & FIRE, "Touch the World," Columbia. This return after four years off would be a polished and competent project for most groups, but it doesn't burn quite as brightly as EWF's past classics. The two Philip Bailey lead vocals are fine, but neither is excellent in the manner of "Head to the Sky" and "Reasons." Still, the LP should further secure EWF's niche in pop/funk history. (C. J.)

38. * * * LOS LOBOS, OTHERS, "LA BAMBA" sound track. Slash/Warner Bros. The remake of "La Bamba" starts off as a faithful throwback, but Los Lobos uses its command of Mexican folk styles to bring the song full circle. The group gives the other Valens material a pumped-up, '80s feel. They didn't just re-do these songs--they revealed a new dimension in their own music through David Hidalgo's singing. (Don Snowden)

39. * * 1/2 GREAT WHITE. "Once Bitten." Capitol. A stylish, lyrical-poppish metal band not unlike the current champs of the form, Whitesnake, Great White has a leather-lunged vocalist, spitfire overdubbed guitars, the obligatory kinda spectral slow tune and big boom drums. The L.A. band patrols this platinum-potential territory with great aplomb and even flashes of brilliance--even if they are packaged within an inch of their lives. (J. V.)

40. * * * JODY WATLEY, "Jody Watley," MCA. As a solo artist, the former Shalamar member is still most comfortable with a straight-on, assertive groove, and the first single, "Looking For a New Love," expresses it best. There are some low spots, but Watley redeems herself on "Still a Thrill," in which she shows her nerve and her pop panache. (C. J.)

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