Hanging off the end of Crystal Ball is The Truth, a dozen new songs that are bound to be eclipsed by the larger set. It's a shame. Full of passionate singing and compelling guitar work, The Truth is a mostly acoustic album that combines deep-blue pop and foolish noodling. Some songs have real bite. "Don't Play Me" is wistful and angry, the title track just angry, and "Welcome 2 the Dawn" just wistful -- and all three approach the heights of "Count the Days," a sublime NPG number pawned off on the Girl 6 soundtrack.
The Truth also has more than its share of sweet love songs, particularly "Circle of Amour" and "Dionne." Notwithstanding the missteps -- the boneheaded vegetarian anthem "Animal Kingdom" has lyrics that read like something you might find in the diary of an especially sensitive fourteen-year-old girl, or like the lyrics of Paul McCartney -- this album has the feel of an artist reconnecting with his muse. Though it's a minor work, in both scope and power, it's also one that reaches back in time -- before 1991's atrocious Diamonds and Pearls -- and suggests that the Artist may yet temper his restless energy and workaholic drive with direction and focus.
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-- Ben Greenman