January/February 1997

Paul Hardcastle
Hardcastle II
JVC Disc America

For the most part, Hardcastle II (JVC 59:19) is a straightforward sequel to keyboard whiz Paul Hardcastle's impossibly detailed, hyper-electronic previous efforts. When layered with soul vocals (as on "Livin' in the Shadows" and a strange rework of Pink Floyd's "Money") the results are cold and unaffecting. However, when Hardcastle injects other dimensions, like the warm, upfront lead guitar line on "Bird Island" and the Enigma-style chant in the atmospheric "Look to the Future," the electronics become dizzying, intriguing backgrounds. On "Joker's Wild," II's hardest-hitting track, a tunneling flute-like melody pierces a big urban dance groove, with screaming sax added for startling effect. "Destination Atlantis" harkens back to some of Hardcastle's primary influences, with swinging jazz meter and brass instrumentation adding to the melee. When Hardcastle employs these twists, his electronic grooves spring to life, turning his sequel into prime escapist fare.

Originally published in January/February 1997
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