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Robert Palmer Goes Electric--R&B; to Blues : ROBERT PALMER “Don’t Explain” <i> EMI</i>

Deep down, Palmer probably hates rock ‘n’ roll: It’s probably just a means to an end for the dapper Englishman. He sings it rather dispassionately most of the time, although his two big rock hits, “Addicted to Love” and “Simply Irresistible” are exceptions.

Palmer knows that if he throws a couple of rock songs on his albums, he can probably continue racking up best-sellers. You get the feeling he merely tolerates the rockers because their mass appeal allows him to sing what he really wants to sing, the quirky, quaint, vintage pop songs he really loves.

Of the few rockers on “Don’t Explain,” none are above average, particularly the first single, “You’re Amazing.” But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a good album. Most of the music, though, is outside the pop-rock mainstream.

This time Palmer really indulges his eclectic tastes, which include R&B;, blues, jazz, reggae and pre-'50s torch songs. Some arrangements, like the reggae/R&B; “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” are outlandish. But most are subdued, allowing plenty of room for his subtle, quietly passionate crooning. The moody title song, done Billie Holiday style, is by far the best song in this hefty collection.

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Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to five (a classic).


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