Like most singers, John Waite is only as good as the songs he sings (i.e., he still packs prime pipes), but Waite's quest for chart action often leaves him churning out demographically inspired, clinical machinations. Why doesn't anyone ever return to power pop roots? At any rate, Figure in a Landscape goes for a mature, adult contemporary atmosphere, but comes across as competent, countrified ennui. Opener "Keys to Your Heart" gets things going in a decent direction. "NYC Girl" oozes cool urban imagery, and "Thinking About You" isn't bad. "Special One" kicks up a little dust, but never gets dirty. Lone rocker "Godhead" smokes ten years after Chris Cornell embodied the term. Classy torch-closer "Masterpiece of Loneliness" holds some heartfelt sentiment, but the other songs (including a Vince Gill tune) are yawners. Waite's sole smash, "Missing You," is a stigma that will forever haunt the singer, and that's apparent from the excessive amount of mellow numbers here. Like most stars from the '70s, Waite possesses a larger-than-life persona, and his particular style of verbosely turning bulky phrases (à la Meatloaf) remains an engaging trait. But the ever-present professional gloss doesn't make Figure on the Landscape any more distinctive, and, barring a miracle, this album won't make Waite any more of a star. Still, it's always a pleasure to hear that voice.
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AllMusic Review by Doug Stone