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Outlets - good blend of pop and rock

Whole New World, new album from the Outlets, Restless Records.

After five years of clubbing around Boston, three singles, and various appearances on local compilation albums, the Outlets have finally released their first piece of full-length vinyl. Whole New World is long overdue as far as I am concerned. The Outlets represent a good blend of pop and rock with an edge all of their own.

Whole New World captures the very essence of the Outlets -- to have a good time. There is no flaming cause or subliminal message in the music. It is simple, danceable, loud, sometimes fast, and always fun to hear. This is the kind of album you play at a party or as you get home on a Friday afternoon in anticipation of a great weekend.

The first side of the LP is a win all the way through. I expect to hear the title cut, "Whole New World," invading the local charts over the next few weeks. Dave Barton's vocal talents are complemented well by the quick-stroke guitar work of his brother Rick to yield a sure hit. Another catchy tune on this first side is "Shiela," a song about that party girl whom we all had a crush on in our high school years. This cut was previously released as the flip side of a single featuring "A Valentine Song" last February. "Titled Track" takes a more serious tone with the story of the wreckless pursuit for happiness that inevitably leads downhill as one matures and must face up to life's responsibilities. The song is great, but the message is blurred by the boyish vigor of the Outlet's style of music.

The second half of the record is not as strong as side one, although it definitely has its high points. "Someday" is a song of hope and reflection with vocal harmonies that fit the mood well. The second cut on this side, "Made in Japan," should hit home for many people as it examines the cost of materialistic progress in America and the price we pay in terms of our own freedom.

The biggest disappointment on the album is "Can't Cheat the Reaper." This cut also happens to be on the single whose release accompanied the LP. Don't get me wrong; this is an excellent song. However, it could have been much better. In fact, a radio tape of a few years back presents a near perfect version of this song. Why that recording of this potential hit wasn't used on the LP, I'll never understand. The LP version is much slower than its predecessor and seems forced. In a word, "Can't Cheat the Reaper" is overproduced, as are some of the other cuts on the album.

Overall, Whole New World is a very good first LP for the Outlets. I prefer a little less production and a bit more of an edge, but most of the tracks still retain the energy and style which make the Outlets a great band. This album is definitely worth a listen. Moreover, the Outlets are a great party band, so if you get a chance to see them live, be sure and follow up on it.

Stephen A. Brobst->