This is a big step forward for Carnie and Wendy Wilson and Chynna Phillips. Their first album, which was a phenomenal success, was shiny and happy and upbeat for the most part; this follow-up is murkier, with denser arrangements and hooks that aren't quite as obvious on first listen. This works both for and against the group. With their soaring harmonies, they bring a joyful brassiness to the hopeful "It's Only Life," which is this album's "Hold On" -- though it is far from being a blueprint. The affirmation of love on track nine, "All the Way From New York," juxtaposed with track ten, the sexy rocker "Fueled for Houston," works, and it is the brightest spot on the album. Unfortunately, though, while their hearts seem to have been in the right place, much of this material just doesn't work. In fact, they even sing in "Goodbye, Carmen": "We're convinced our intentions are good/But we live in this world often misunderstood." This certainly applies to that cut, about a maid. It's odd subject matter, and it doesn't quite fly. The girls end up sounding pretentious and condescending. Where "Flesh and Blood" is a heartfelt plea to Carnie and Wendy's estranged father, Beach Boy Brian Wilson, it gets muddled by too much synth, which makes the entreaty too cold. And "This Doesn't Have to Be Love," "Where Are You," and "Alone," which is similar sounding to "You Won't See Me Cry," the album's first single -- though it lacks that cut's conviction -- bog the album down with their bland adult contemporary leanings. Though the group teamed again with Glen Ballard, who produced their first album, something got lost in the translation this time around. Their angelic voices still mesh seamlessly, but stepping forward toward maturity, the trio seems to have lost some of the fun that made them click in the first place. Shadows and Light is far from being a disaster, but it is a misstep, though worth checking out if you enjoy girl groups or are a fan of Wilson Phillips.
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