By alternately sounding like other singers (a little like Marvin Gaye, a little like Smokey Robinson, or a little like Prince, as the mood dictates), Al B. Sure! achieves that most derivative of mass-media goals, a highly polished lack of distinction. If he keeps this up, he’ll be a potent, if vague, force in the generic funk-lite arena — no particular thing to all men.
The first half of Private Times…and the Whole 9! largely reproduces the falsetto R&B tones of ”Nite and Day,” the biggest hit from Sure!’s 1988 smash In Effect Mode. Songs like ”Touch You” are competent if innocuous manifestations of the waterbed sensibility — perfect background music for somebody else’s evening à deux. The second half mostly funks it up in a more ’90s style. While no tune is especially striking, a few have a notable quality or two: ”So Special” recalls ”Nite and Day,” and ”No Matter What You Do” features Diana Ross at her most breathlessly soprano. As for this year’s inexplicable ’70s cover (In Effect Mode‘s was a syrupy ”Killing Me Softly”), you get a double shot of Don Henley’s love with not one but two mixes of ”Hotel California,” a dubious distinction, to B. Sure. C-