A.J. Croce

Adrian James Croce

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When the son of the late pop legend Jim Croce popped on the scene in the early '90s, he was still in a developing Ray Charles phase, showing off his affinity for stride and jazz piano playing to accompany his likeable vocals. Over the years, he has slowly moved away from those areas and developed into a still engaging but slightly less unique singer/songwriter more influenced by the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Squeeze and Elvis Costello. Stamping his full name on this release -- which was released on his own label and features members of Costello's backing group -- clues us in on the idea that he's finally found his true identity -- and the hooks and harmonies are pretty irresistible. He starts with the pure romantic harmony pop of "Don't Let Me Down," then spends most of the rest of the disc showing off some of those still strong influences, from the Beatlesque "Baby Tonight" and "Upside Down" (shades of "Golden Slumbers") to the Beach Boys- type voice textures of "Too Soon." Colorful piano chording and clever lyrics on "I Believe" ring in the Randy Newman vibe as well, and there's some tender introspection (complete with a wistful mandolin harmony) on "Cold." It's still a kick to hear him bring the past up to the present, even if he's a few decades ahead of where the journey began.

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