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*** TONY! TONI! TONE! "The Revival" PolyGram : Albums are rated from one star (poor) to five stars (a classic).

May 20, 1990|DENNIS HUNT

R&B isn't as simple and cut-and-dried as it used to be. Groups like the Oakland-based Tonys use R&B as a jumping-off point, infusing it with doses of rap, high-tech funk, jazz and pop. Offbeat R&B hybrids abound on this album, which has an experimental feel. The Tonys' explorations, though, are mostly successful.

Still, some songs seem too busy and intentionally oddball, as if the trio were trying too hard to make them different. And the Tonys still haven't figured out how to make a gripping ballad. Theirs are still too low-key and casual.

But on some material, the diverse ingredients blend perfectly. The bouncy, sardonic "Oakland Stroke," for instance, swings from rap to Tommy Dorsey-style swing very fluidly. The album's real gem is "The Blues," which is featured in several forms, including robust dance mixes--one being the female answer (by Tyler Collins) to the radio version's stinging gripes about an ungrateful girlfriend. "The Blues" is one of those songs that lodges in your head and stays there.

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