Joshua Kadison

Vanishing America

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Joshua Kadison's third album sees him revisit the familiar windswept vistas of his first two records. Nothing on Vanishing America is quite as memorable as his first hit, "Jessie," but Kadison's country-troubadour eye for characters and narratives remains intact. So does the voice, which still uncannily resembles Elton John's. On the downside, Kadison slips into cringe-inducing schmaltz one time too many. Vanishing America is just too chock-full of sugary-sweet, cheese-rich story songs to be really enjoyable. Like "Carolina's Eyes," which rips off Jack Nicholson's lines from As Good as It Gets: "I see the better man she makes me want to be." Elsewhere, on the Latin-tinged "El Diablo Amor," Kadison makes like a latter-day Barry Manilow. For the most part, though, he is, as billed, an everyday MOR singer/songwriter, no more and no less. The tunes are serviceable, but not one of them really takes off and soars. The playing (by such seasoned pros as Leslie Mandoki and Pino Palladino, among others) is similarly tasteful and unobtrusive. If only Kadison had reined in the mush and played to the strengths of his songwriting, Vanishing America would have been an altogether more interesting proposition. As it is, it proves that, vocal similarity apart, the Elton John comparisons were severely overstating the case.

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