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Ray Gaskins: Shady Lane

Saxophonist/vocalist Ray Gaskins works hard to please on his sophomore solo effort, Shady Lane (Lipstick 8953-2; 60:37), but in the end is undone by his tendency toward over-arrangement and R&B cliche. His searching sax feel shines through on the album opener “Just Imagine Me,” for example, but is covered with distracting, needless background vocals. “Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong” sits in a loping, repetitive late-night glisten groove, and takes forever to get going. Less is more on the album’s best pieces, like the exposed vocal and piano of “We Had to Say Goodbye,” and the brass-and-bass romp “Mo’ Chicken.” Gaskin’s most striking highlight is the deeply funky romp “Yo Funky Mama,” which starts with a free-form scat over drums and takes off from there. In short, it rocks-but also emphasizes some of the limp over-synthesized shortcomings elsewhere.

Originally Published