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JOHN ANDERSON "Solid Ground"


* * 1/2

Comebacks are rare in country music because hardly anyone ever goes away, but John Anderson, who arrived in the early '80s with a voice for the ages, faded into the pack and then pulled off a gratifying return to form and popularity with last year's album "Seminole Wind."

"Solid Ground" starts off with a bang that suggests his resurgence is for real: "Money in the Bank" finds Anderson's rich voice pouring like gold-tinged motor oil over a honky-tonk backing full of snarling guitar and explosive clap-beats. Your love's better than money in the ba-ya-ya-ya-yank , he wails, and the images of monetary temptations declined create a good-natured picture of exaggerated devotion.

But the rest of "Solid Ground" doesn't match that level and lacks the consistent song quality of "Seminole Wind." Some of the arrangements steer him into poppish anonymity, and elsewhere he gets mired in stock, sticky sentimentality.

Veteran tunesmith Bobby Braddock comes through with "Nashville Tears," an anatomy of the dark side of the dream, and Anderson and Fred Carter Jr.'s "All Things to All Things" is notable as country's first over-the-top mystical ecology hymn, complete with an animal-rights verse. Wonder how many Anderson fans will take it to heart and turn in their hunting licenses.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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