Boney James touches on some soulful retro influences on Sweet Thing (Warner Bros. 9 46548-2; 42:06), but the popular saxophone idol ultimately wanders back to more familiar, loop-laden turf which is far less interesting. There are some truly funky moments here, like James' slithering alto on the lean arrangement, "Nothin' But Love," (which recalls some of his '70s R&B heroes) and his spindly soprano on the sparkling dance, "Ivory Coast." James' best pieces here look beyond the typical boudoir-smooth jazz to something a little different, like the Caribbean bustle of "After the Rain." These tunes make more typical offerings like "I Still Dream" (which drowns in atmosphere, despite Al Jarreau's game vocal intensity) and "East Bay" seem totally bloated with heavy atmosphere. James can sell a melody in spite of all the fluff, but the more promising parts of Sweet Thing might make you wish he'd stretch just a little further.