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A Crazy-Quilt of Styles Unravels at the Seams

SOPHIE B. HAWKINS

“Whaler”

Columbia

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In more nimble hands, the myriad influences that Hawkins brings to her second album might have coalesced into a provocative musical experiment.

But Hawkins, who had a hit single in 1992 with “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover,” often fumbles her heavy load of Kate Bush, Madonna, David Bowie, Lisa Stansfield, Human League, Berlitz language tapes and, so she says, Nigerian musician Babatunde Olatunji. She juggles many different sounds yet somehow never quite manages to come off as clever. Tortured syntax and prolific use of remedial French don’t cut it.

Hawkins comes closest to pulling it off on the crazy-quilt “Mr. Tugboat Hello.” If you close your eyes and wiggle your ears a little, you might just fool yourself into believing you’re in a cabaret listening to an inordinately uncommon--and appealing--show tune.

That concoction aside, what works here is the straight-arrow, mainstream stuff--the pulsating, dance-floor-friendly “Right Beside You” and the anguished “I Need Nothing Else,” a fine exposition of want and need.

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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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