**; AMY GRANT, “House of Love” (...
**; AMY GRANT, “House of Love” ( A&M; )
Amy Grant has all the makings of a legitimate ‘90s Top 40 queen: With a silky voice equally adept in sassily sexy or sweetly spiritual mode and in sensitive ballads or unabashed bubblegum, she always conveys a genuineness as considerable as her charisma.
But baby, baby, has she blown it. “House,” which comes after a string of increasingly accomplished albums, is her weakest recording since the late ‘70s--largely because of computer-programming-happy producers Keith Thomas and Michael Omartian, who leave few pop studio cliches unturned.
For a couple of numbers, it seems deliberate: “Lucky One” and “Say You’ll Be Mine” fare best, if only because they take the singsongy simplicity of her 1991 hit “Baby, Baby” to a near-kids'-record extreme. Soon the buoyancy is gone, but the banality remains in love songs or generic brotherhood anthems both elementary and listless. Lyrically, Grant has strayed beyond contemporary Christian music (just one nouveau -age gospel number here), but musically, the producers’ synth-sap fits too snugly within the subgenre’s dull aesthetics.
The standout is an incongruous version of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi,” whose famous refrain--about not appreciating what you’ve got till the asphalt truck arrives--could describe how a fan feels hearing Grant’s considerable gifts being paved over.
New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).