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ALBUM REVIEWS : Shai Turns to Prickly Matters of the Heart : *** SHAI / "Blackface" Gasoline Alley/MCA

October 21, 1995|CONNIE JOHNSON

Coming up with a record to equal or surpass the velvety embrace of the hit single "If Ever I Fall in Love" can't be an easy task. This follow-up was three years in the making, but it's a respectable bit of work that won't disappoint Shai fans. Nothing here approaches the sublime romanticism of that 1992 hit, but that record may be the type of lightning that only strikes once in a career.

Despite the album's title, there's not much of a racial or social message here, as the quartet focuses on prickly matters of the heart. The best example is "Come With Me," told from the perspective of someone who might have to choose between love and professional advancement.

Give the guys some credit for originality. Even "Mr. Turn U Out" isn't your typical R&B boast, since they don't pass themselves off as one of those always-perfect lovers. In fine Boyz II Men tradition, Shai even saves its best vocals for the album's one a cappella track, "If I Gave (A Concession of Hope)," a spiritual that is moving in its sheer simplicity. Sometimes less is more.

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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