Tricky is a modern bluesman who reaches out to us with all sorts of stark and subtle dance music shadings rather than old guitar wails, and he has delivered two of the most compelling albums of the decade in 1995's "Maxinquaye" and last year's "Angels With Dirty Faces." This album, which will be released Tuesday, isn't in that class.
While numerous tracks outshine almost anything on the radio these days, the album lacks the icy independence and even artistic defiance that made those earlier works so absorbing.
A British pop man of many seasons, Tricky is a songwriter, rapper and producer who helped pioneer the smooth, trance-like trip-hop sound, and he has gone on to back tales of paranoia and rage with moody and unsettling textures reminiscent of the most memorable film noir.
It's an approach that has made him a star in England but has left him with little more than rave notices here. So, you can understand the temptation to reach out to a wider audience through an increased hip-hop focus, going into the studio this time with producers DJ Muggs from Cypress Hill and Grease (whose credits include DMX). The result is listenable, even catchy, but not essential. Call it "Angels With Top 40 Ears."
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent).