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POP MUSIC | Record Rack

*** 1/2 MJ COLE, "Sincere," Island/Talking Loud

April 15, 2001|STEVE BALTIN

'Take a ride on the wild side," beckons producer/keyboardist MJ Cole in the album-opening "Introduction," as a classical piano arrangement quickly segues into a beat-heavy dance groove with disco and soul undertones. With that, Americans are invited to join the two-step (or U.K. garage) craze that has infected England thanks in large part to Cole.

Two-step is an amalgamation of styles from drum-and-bass to dance, but arguably the most important component is American R&B, evidenced on "Sincere's" second track, the sultry "Tired Games," featuring singer Elisabeth Troy. Her vocals, on a par with those of any of the U.S. soul divas, are showcased throughout, most notably on the velvety "Crazy Love" and the sensual, downbeat ballad "I See," a song that could get two-step onto American radio.

Open to all styles and genres, two-step also freely incorporates hip-hop with almost equal success. Check the outstanding "Bandelero Desperado," which opens with elegant strings before turning into a showcase for rapper Danny Vicious' rapid-fire, human beat-box delivery.

A smashing debut, "Sincere" is a stylish, tasteful testament to Cole's vision, and to a love of music that clearly runs deep.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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