Critics review Michael Bolton case -- Eight critics decide if the singer is guilty or innocent of stealing the Isley Brother's 1966 song ''Love is a Wonderful Thing''

Eight Los Angeles jurors recently decided that Michael Bolton’s 1991 hit ”Love Is a Wonderful Thing” was stolen from the Isley Brothers’ 1966 song of the same name. After the trial, the oftcriticized Bolton said, ”I almost wish I had eight critics as my jurors” ( 222, May 13). Pending an appeal by Bolton’s lawyers, his wish is hereby granted. We sent recordings of both songs to eight music critics, and here are their judgments:

Don McLeese, Austin American-Statesman Verdict: Innocent. Comment: ”Bolton is mainly guilty of his typical triteness. His tune owes as much to the Young Rascals’ ‘Love Is a Beautiful Thing’ as it does to the Isleys’ obscurity. I’d sooner string him up for the desecrations he has inflicted upon Percy Sledge and Otis Redding.”

David Browne, Entertainment Weekly Verdict: Innocent. Comment: ”Michael Bolton is guilty of many things-oversinging, lack of musical imagination, overall hackdom-but outright plagiarism doesn’t seem to be one of them. The antiseptic white-boy funk of his ‘Love’ seems miles removed-in terms of musical notes and spirit-from the Isleys’ juiced-up, if generic, slice of pop- gospel.”

Jon Garelick, The Boston Phoenix Verdict: Innocent. Comment: ”I’d like to give the Isleys several million of Michael’s dollars, but they’re different songs. The Isleys’ song pops with freshness and good humor. Bolton’s is a turgid bore. If the decision stands, every pop songwriter will be able to sue every other pop songwriter. I also happen to believe Bolton when he says he never heard it.”

James Bernard, The Source Verdict: Guilty. Comment: ”I’m glad the Isleys won-they probably need the money-but they should be insulted at the very thought that there’s any similarity between the two songs.”

Dave Marsh, Playboy Verdict: Guilty. Comment: ”I felt extremely pleased that Michael Bolton wanted to know what I thought. It’s my hope that he will someday ask how much a critic might imagine he owes in reparations for butchering classic- as opposed to obscure-R&B.”

Michael Walsh, Time Verdict: Innocent. Comment: ”The verdict’s an utter travesty rendered by unmusical jurors. Aside from the fact that they have the same title, and the melody begins on the third note of the scale, the two songs bear no resemblance in any significant musical way.”

Havelock Nelson, Rolling Stone contributor Verdict: Guilty. Comment: ”Bolton’s song does bear a slight similarity to the Isleys’-enough to call it a knockoff. Both titles have a bright, gospelly feel and a similar, repeated hook line.”

Craig Marks, Spin Verdict: Guilty. Comment: ”Let’s see: same title, near- identical melody, shameful track record …Michael Bolton, meet George Harrison. The American judicial system may be seriously flawed, but it can finally stand up and take a bow. Now if only they can make restitution to the rest of the black musical community that Bolton has stolen from over the years.”

Final verdict: A hung jury.