Sunday, June 27, 2010

Richard Marx: Rush Street (1992)/Paid Vacation (1994)

(From Rock & Roll Disc [unpublished 'cause the magazine folded) and the Illinois Entertainer respectively ... )

Richard Marx
Rush Street
Capitol CDP 7 95874 2
Total disc time: 65:35 (AAD)

Merit: **½
Sound: ****

Buried amid the pointless "hard rock" that dominates this overlong bestseller are three pretty solid pop songs and two chart-topping smashes--the slinky "Keep Coming Back" and the spooky "Hazard"--that deserve every bit of their market share. But for the most part Marx is trying too hard, cramming too many minutes into too many songs and singing them in a strained voice that owes more to Kenny Loggins than it does to any of the vintage rock-and-rollers whose records Marx told Jay Leno he collects.

Richard Marx
Paid Vacation

Marx has so refined his mixture of rock, pop, and R&B that only Bryan Adams can boast more homogenized hooks-per-minute. And that's no put-down. Though none of this album's dozen rival Rush Street's "Hazard," only one of them--the fifty-four-second throwaway "Baby Blues"--doesn't draw a bullseye on a ready-made audience.

His guest list this time includes Luther Vandross, Lionel Richie, Fee Waybill, and, on the country-tinged "Nothing Left Behind Us," Vince Gill. True, they're subordinated to Marx's over-riding radio-friendly aesthetic, but they also inspire him to up his game with first-rate production and the least histrionic singing of his career.

Still, he does leave himself vulnerable to detractors convinced that he'll never outgrow his wimpiness: "There are too many nonsmokers dying each year as a result of second-hand smoke," he writes in the liner notes. "Demand a smoke-free environment." Next: Rock Against Cholesterol.

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