Howard Jones

People

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After spending most of the '90s without an American record contract, Howard Jones finally secured a deal with Ark 21 in 1998, issuing People, his first album of new material to be released in the U.S. since 1992's In the Running. Strictly speaking, it's not a brand-new album -- it's a revamped version of Angels & Lovers, a 1997 Japanese-only release, minus two songs from that 12-track album and featuring three new tracks. Perhaps Jones or his label realized that Angels & Lovers was a moody record, devoid of hooks outside of the bouncy "You're the Buddha," and that's why they have front-loaded People with "Buddha" and the three new songs, all of which are catchy, polished, tuneful pop -- it's a way to lure older fans into an album they'll likely find a little impenetrable, if their tastes haven't moved toward new age. That said, two of the new songs are fun -- "Let the People Have Their Say" successfully revamps Dream Into Action with pulsating beats and a children's chorus, while "Tomorrow Is Now" offers something new: propulsive, infectious guitar pop. The other number, the faux-reggae "Everything," is weighed down by ridiculous wah-wah guitar, but at least has some spirit to it -- the rest of the songs are simple, undistinguished ballads. They may be among his most introspective songs, but the listless, meditative music is too dull to justify close attention. Ultimately, People -- like its cousin Angels & Lovers -- is undone by Jones' portentous songs, which sound canned due to his unwavering allegiance to late-'80s synthesizers. In simpler settings, these songs may have had some power, but in these polished, mechanized productions, they sound lifeless.

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