Arion Berger
December 13, 1991 AT 05:00 AM EST

As the group Levert, brothers Gerald and Eddie Levert helped restyle black pop, ushering in the passionate cool of new jack swing. Now Gerald has gone solo and — guess what? — all he really wants to be is old-fashioned. Private Line leaves the dance floor behind, favoring slowish mid-tempo funk on top of which Levert croons songs of romance. It’s clear from these cuts that his own first love was ’70s soul: Levert has Al Green and Frankie Beverly on the brain. Yet his unremarkable voice is no match for the masters, something the music’s plodding pace makes all too distinct. What Levert lacks in vocal prowess he almost makes up in earnestness. His delivery sounds terribly heartfelt, the lyrics close in content to soul classics, from Dinah Washington’s ”Teach Me Tonight” (Levert’s own is ”School Me”) to Green’s ”You Ought to Be With Me” (we hear ”You Oughta Be With Me”). Levert seems too respectful of the genre’s greats to leave his own imprint on the music. Taken song by song, Private Line is pleasant R&B radio fodder; as an album, it’s just spinning its wheels. C

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