When Richard Smith recorded for Heads Up in the late 1990s, he was content to sound like a low-rent version of George Benson and toss creativity out the window. But back in the late 1980s, he showed signs of integrity from time to time. Often forgettable but occasionally decent, Rockin' the Boat isn't as consistently weak as Heads Up dates like First Kiss and Flow. This CD contains fusion as well as crossover/pop-jazz, and the quality can vary considerably from one track to another. The guitarist wasn't above recording fluffy, saccharine elevator muzak back then -- "Zephyr Cove" and "Orcas Island" are about as exciting as something you'd expect to hear during a visit to the dentist -- but his writing isn't bad on the Asian-influenced "Eastern Dreams" and the funky "Take Me, I'm Yo's." Unfortunately, even the CD's best songs are smothered by excessive producing -- instead of producing his best songs to death, Smith should have simply let loose and improvised. Rockin' the Boat really isn't worth the price of admission, but at least it isn't as bad as some of his subsequent efforts.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson