Livin' Large

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Go-go is a musical form some have figured to be chart-resistant, thanks to its propensity for extended jams as heavy on percussion as melody. But with the smash 1988 single "Da Butt," E.U. proved that go-go could cross over, and this follow-up album was crafted to drive that point home. Overseen by the usual committee of producers (including Marcus Miller), the keyboard-laden Livin' Large is just about as studio slick as go-go can get and still keep its infectious swing. The biggest flaw is glaring: the drumming of William "Juju" House, the band's funky heartbeat, has mostly been replaced by unpleasantly clean mechanical grooves. That this unfortunate situation doesn't doom the album is in large part thanks to vocalist Gregory "Sugar Bear" Elliot, whose charisma and nasal "ows" can't help but generate smiles. There are also some pretty decent tunes inside the dressed-up arrangements; the remake of the Isley Brothers' "Shake Your Thang," featuring Salt and Pepa, was a deserving hit, and a redone "Da Butt," while slightly inferior to the original, still packs a rump-shaking wallop. Even the slow jamming "Taste of Your Love" and "Don't Turn Around," while having little to do with go-go, are surprisingly nice. After this effort failed to herald a commercial breakthrough, go-go largely went back to Washington D.C. and went about its business, but Livin' Large was a brave and, for the most part, successful attempt to widen the genre's reach.

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