By Amy Linden
July 31, 1992 at 04:00 AM EDT

It’s the battle of the R&B titans! In this corner, Mo’ Money‘s Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the team that has produced Janet Jackson and half of the Top 100. In the other, Boomerang‘s L.A. Reid and Babyface, the juice behind TLC and the other half of the charts. Big budgets! Big stars! Big hype! But like the B-ball matchups between the Dream Team and its opponents, this ain’t even close.

The soundtrack for Boomerang is brilliantly assembled state-of-the-art R&B, ’92-style. With more stars than the sky (Bell Biv DeVoe, Flavor Flav of Public Enemy, and Johnny Gill, who’s on both Boomerang and Mo’ Money), how did Jam and Lewis screw this one up? Bad moves. Check out the hit single ”The Best Things in Life Are Free.” While the combo of Janet Jackson and Luther Vandross may be a marketing dream, artistically it blows. The trademark busy groove that defines Janet buries Luther, who doesn’t need a crutch and who, when free of misguided arrangements, eats singers like Janet for lunch. Here, as elsewhere, Jam and Lewis never make their artists work for the money.

Boomerang, on the other hand, does everything right. Its hit single is the lusciously sexy ”Give U My Heart,” a duet between Babyface and newcomer Toni Braxton. It’s a delight how they playfully weave around each other. On this album, the duos are inspired: Aaron Hall and the Gap Band’s Charlie Wilson complement each other so well that their gruff tenor exchanges become one fierce shout of soul. L.A. and Babyface allow their stars — from P.M. Dawn to Boyz II Men — to be artists and not just decoration. Unlike Mo’, which throws out names without songs, Boomerang knows it’s quality not quantity that counts, and you can take that to the bank.