* * 1/2
It's peculiar to say an artist who's never had a Top 10 record is a victim of his own success. But this English trip-hop musician, who ascended to cult icon status with 1994's "Maxinquaye," is just that. Although subsequent projects were of a similar high quality, the innovation of "Maxinquaye" was impossible to duplicate. Then 1999's "Juxtapose," his first real misstep, led many people to wonder if he had lost his way.
Whether "Blowback" (in stores Tuesday) is the record to reassure those doubters is questionable, as it marks a further departure from the dark nature of Tricky's early work. But it only enhances Tricky's reputation for taking risks.
Featuring high-profile guests such as Live's Ed Kowalczyk, Alanis Morissette and members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Blowback" offers a few strong moments, beginning with the opening "Excess." One of two collaborations with Morissette, "Excess" has the primitive, mysterious beats that characterized Tricky's early work. As does the other one, "A Song for Yukiko," a dark, erotically charged song marked by a haunting beat and whispered lyrics.
The rest of the highlights come from Tricky's pairings with Amber Sunshower and Hawkman, particularly the sweet "Your Name" (with Sunshower) and the smoldering "Bury the Evidence."
"Blowback" is too hit-and-miss to be called a complete return to form, but at least it offers a step in the right direction.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).