Record reviews


Boyz II Men

Album: “Under the Streetlight”

Grade: A

The guys who gave us “Motownphilly” in 1991 are making fun of themselves these days in a Geico ad in which they harmonize gross digestive side effects at a pharmacy. “If you’re Boyz II Men,” you make anything sound good,” says the announcer. On a new CD, they also prove they can make already good songs sound very good indeed.

On “Under the Streetlight,” the Boyz — Nathan Morris, Shawn Stockman and Wanya Morris — tackle covers of classic tunes by the likes of Carole King, Sam Cooke and Randy Newman.

This is dangerous territory in the wrong hands — perhaps demanding a pharmacy visit of your own when it fails — but “Under the Streetlight” manages to give each song the Boyz’ soulful barbershop quartet treatment with respect and admiration for the originals, especially with a superb version of “Why Do Fools Fall in Love.”

The trio also gets terrific assists from Brian McKnight on “I’ll Come Running Back To You,” “Tears on My Pillow” and “A Sunday Kind of Love.”

Amber Riley is a welcome, sultry addition to “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is” and Take Six joins the trio on “A Thousand Miles Away.”

—Mark Kennedy, Associated Press

Niall Horan

Album: “Flicker”

Grade: B

From one direction to five, it’s been fascinating to listen to what the members of One Direction have been doing on their hiatus. And hold your nose if you must but some of it is really good — including Niall Horan’s latest effort.

While Harry Styles dabbles in ’70s rock, Louis Tomlinson gets into hard-core EDM, Liam Payne embraces in-the-club-R&B and Zayn Malik explores neo-soul, “Flicker” finds Horan on the folkier side of pop.

Horan’s solo CD isn’t look-at-me flashy, but his songs are built sturdily and his warm voice is unrushed and unpretentious. He seems uninterested in the pyrotechnics of his 1D bandmates, preferring a John Mayer and Ed Sheeran guitar-driven sound. It’s a mature effort from an Irish former boy band boy, who had a hand in writing every song and plays guitar on several.

The 10-track CD opens with the infectious, dance-friendly “On the Loose,” but that’s not representative of the album. It’s like Horan just wants to show he can put out pure shimmering pop like anyone else — and then move on.

You won’t be able to resist “Slow Hands,” a pure hit of foot-stomping breezy pop-folk, or the duet “Seeing Blind,” where he and country star Maren Morris meld their voices beautifully.

But much of “Flicker” is airy, dreamy and delicate as it explores love with subtle guitar work, like the achingly beautiful “Paper Houses,” the gorgeous, slightly twangy “You and Me” and the excellent Fleetwood Mac-ish “Since We’re Alone.” The title song is a triumph of sparseness.

—Mark Kennedy, Associated Press

Margo Price

Album: “All American Made”

Grade: B+

Margo Price extends her deep country roots in new directions on “All American Made,” her sophomore album which adds tads of Memphis soul and dabs of gospel and even reggae to her solid East Nashville foundations.

Price’s personal story and struggles were deeply and movingly part of 2016 debut “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter” and the themes on this record include the travails of the working class — especially women — and their place in the country’s big picture.

Her takes on romance and daily living are far from one-sided, as she admits causing pain (“Weakness”) as much as suffering it (”Don’t Say It”) and the fact that she’s a working mother has an understandable effect across several songs, including “Pay Gap” and “Nowhere Fast.”

—Pablo Gorondi, Associated Press

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