• V2

Singer, songwriter, producer, DJ, and electronic wiz kid, Moby had been kicking around the New York underground scene for years, scoring some success, most notably with the critically acclaimed 1995 album Everything Is Wrong. That was up until 1999, when his disc Play turned him into an international superstar.

This follow-up, 18, is the right album at the right time, and while it rarely breaks new ground, it's a whole lot fresher than a lot of what's passing for pop, rock, techno, or electronica these days. Moby likes to meld all four, along with soul, gospel, and shades of jazz—a cool blue blast of circular sound.

He starts with the single “We Are All Made of Stars,” a strange, dance-floor blend of early '80s new wave keyboards surging straight into echoes of '60s psychedelia. It's about difficult circumstances and quantum physics and it's as quirky and captivating as the singer himself. Moby uses it to send a message from the outset— throw your expectations out the window.

As on Play there are several moments of sumptuous soul and gospel grooves that help define this album. Singer Jennifer Price takes a dazzling turn in “In This World,” Dianne McCaulley soars against a stark, atmospheric backdrop in “One of These Mornings,” while The Shining Light Gospel Choir weaves wonder around the delicate, classically structured piano runs on “In My Heart.” The latter gospel group shows up again on the flat-out gorgeous 18th song in the set, “I'm Not Worried At All,” which sounds like something Percy Sledge would have loved for the follow-up to “When a Man Loves a Woman.”

Occasionally, he gets lost in the light, and a couple of cuts, like the Angie Stone and MC Lyte collaboration (“Jam for the Ladies”) never quite get off the ground. But those are exceptions to a set that otherwise proves remarkably consistent from start to finish.

Kevin O'Hare

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