September 20, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT
We gave it a B

Start with the assumption that the reunion of New Edition on Home Again is born of a certain desperation, since the last solo releases by Bobby Brown, Johnny Gill, Ralph Tresvant, and the trio act Bell Biv DeVoe (Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Ronnie DeVoe) were commercial disappointments if not outright bombs. Then note Home Again‘s laundry list of producers, including Sean ”Puffy” Combs, Gerald Levert, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and others. It has to be a discombobulated jumble, right?

Not exactly. Much of the music on Home Again is striking. ”Hear Me Out,” for example, is a beautifully layered, multi-harmony ballad. The collection’s knock-out track is ”Something About You,” a fresh Jam/Lewis composition that updates new jack swing for the ’90s.

Home Again has its slow patches, most notably in the gangsta- derivative first single, ”Hit Me Off,” and Johnny Gill’s overblown gospel number ”Thank You (The J.G. Interlude).” There are a lot of old-fashioned R&B touches on Home Again — Marvin Gaye-ish moans, Michael Jacksonite squeals, Teddy Pendergrassy growls — that are amusing but also remind you that New Edition have always lacked a distinctive identity. While their themes and melodies have matured, their solid music still doesn’t reveal much about the men making it. B

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