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Roger Troutman, the Techno Tease : Check List * * * * Great Balls of Fire * * * Good Vibrations * * Maybe Baby * Running on Empty :

January 03, 1988|CONNIE JOHNSON

* * * ROGER. "Unlimited!" Reprise.

It's hard to resist when Roger Troutman sings this album's big crossover hit "I Want to Be Your Man" through a synthesized voice box with languid, shy-guy sincerity. He's a techno-tease with good intentions, a dapper dan who can invent a riff as flashy as the gold jewelry he wears on his album cover.

Roger, who has produced funk hits for Shirley Murdock and the group Zapp, traffics heavily in the kind of synthesized vocals that Stevie Wonder popularized back in the mid-'70s. It's a device he used to excellent effect on his 1981 version of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," a hit that added a new taste and color to that R&B classic. He uses it here on a re-working of James Brown's "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag."

The album's two anti-drug messages ("Been This Way Before" and "Thrill Seekers") are bombastic body slams, and they're effective in a non-preachy manner. There are shades of the late Wes Montgomery in Troutman's guitar noodlings on "Composition to Commemorate (May 30, 1918)" and on the album's closer, "I Really Want to Be Your Man." This is a put-the-needle-anywhere LP that can only add to Troutman's still-growing reputation as a man with a solid plan for funk's future.

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