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The Independent Culture

Dance Into the Light

Value 0630-16000-2

Adopting a sort of African "lite" sound, the better to show off his undeniably impressive percussive technique, Phil Collins' latest offering is better than the sterile Both Sides, but only marginally so. He may make a pretty decent fist of re-writing Graceland 10 years too late, but he's still prey to penning would-be feel-good anthems so hollow he could stretch skins across them and beat out time.

"River So Wide", for instance, involves the routine marshalling of anthemic cliche - stuff about crossing rivers, smothering pain, denying demons and the like - in the service of the kind of bland "one-world" sentiment that has become pop's equivalent of communist dogma. It's a recurrent fault here, most glaring in the aptly titled "Just Another Story", this album's "Another Day In Paradise". The chorus - "just another story about going too far" - provides a fine petard for Collins to sit down on, reminding one of how rarely his music goes any further than the minimum distance required, and how terrified he seems of territory even a centimetre or two away from the populist mainstream.

The only trace of heart or soul comes at the end, on "The Times They Are A-Changin'" - and even here, Collins has contrived to crush the life out of the song, fitting it up with the cement boots of populist pomp- rock. Has he no shame?


A Place in the World

Columbia 483182 2

The lack of emotional truth in Phil Collins's songs is thrown into stark relief by the latest from Mary Chapin Carpenter - but then, we are dealing here with as close as modern songwriting gets to bona-fide natural genius. Even on auto-pilot, she can't help but cut to the quick.

Some measure of Carpenter's skill can be gleaned from the way she manages, in songs such as "Ideas are Like Stars" and "A Place in the World", to present a subtle humanist outlook without frightening too many horses among her core country audience, traditionally the most conservative of fans. The next thing you know, she'll have them agreeing with evolution.


Blue is the Colour

Go! Discs 828 845-2

According to their press release, one in seven British households possesses a copy of this band's greatest hits album Carry on up The Charts, which suggests a prodigious market for bittersweet ruminations couched in soothing MOR.

No surprise, then, that Blue is the Colour rocks neither boat nor body: another drab collection of plain-spoken observations camouflaged in easy listening.Jacqueline Abbott copes well,while Heaton and third singer Dave Hemingway diligently put the MOR into morose.

Andy Gill