and the trees said, "ouch"

Outside from the Redwoods (Columbia)
Kenny Loggins

By Allen Howie

***I saw Kenny Loggins perform several years ago in support of his Vox Humana album, and was impressed with the strength of his voice and the skill and energy with which he and his band dove into every number. So I had high hopes for this new live set, which includes thirteen songs recorded live at the Shakespeare Festival Glen in Santa Cruz, Ca.

But trouble sets in almost immediately. "Conviction of the Heart" barely slips out from under the weight of its "one with the world" sentiment. Things look hopeful for just a moment, as Loggins glides into a nice, jazzy reworking of "What a Fool Believes," but things quickly take a turn for the worse, as the singer and guest Michael McDonald, with whom he co-wrote the tune, rob it of every hint of melody. It's one of those ideas that was well-intentioned, but fatally flawed in its execution.

"Your Mama Don't Dance" struggles gamely to regain lost momentum, but to no avail. Two duets with Shanice ("I Would Do Anything" and "Love Will Follow") wander aimlessly, as do well-arranged but passionless numbers like "Now and Then" and "If You Believe," both of which cruise along at a pleasant lite-rock pace but never leave the ground.

Even the seemingly sure-fire selections here fall a little flat: "Celebrate Me Home" sounds rote and joyless compared with the original, while "This Is It" tries too hard to be something it's not and "Footloose" takes forever to ignite and fizzles fast. Only the goofy "I'm Alright" from "Caddyshack" starts to live up to its potential — and it's about a gopher — and even it deteriorates quickly into mindless (dare I say it?) "jamming."

The sad thing about all this is that Loggins' voice is in fine form, and all of the musicians here play well. But what could have been great fun ends up being a sterile exercise in futility. If a redwood falls in this forest, it won't make a sound over all the snoring.