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When last heard from in their own right, the members of Family Stand’s brain trust had just produced several tracks for Paula Abdul before committing Moon in Scorpio, a generous disc’s worth of the kind of R&B-rock fusion that critics love and radio types admire but refuse to program. Six years, another Abdul set, and a lineup change later, the group returns with a fourth album that entices but doesn’t challenge. Connected—whose hackneyed love-as-addiction-themed title track is one of its most daring moves—shies away from both the rock and political elements of Moon in Scorpio in favor of a clean-lined quiet-storm aesthetic that at its most inspired places leader Peter Lord’s vocals side by side with those of new addition Jacci McGhee, who replaces the departed Sandra St. Victor. McGhee is impressive, if not up to the Chaka Khan and Rufus associations several of these arrangements plant at the edges of the listener’s brain. Liberally quoting from Stevie or Sly more as ear-tickling teases than the fully integrated conceptual tributes of Tony! Toni! Toné!, the album nonetheless plays through its retro visitations stylishly, if with perhaps too many midtempo tracks; the Stand never rams into a display of full-throttle funk. But anyone who has grooved to the overrated Maxwell should certainly check out Connected. It won’t replace its sources in your heart,

but it will stick around in your mind for a while.—Rickey Wright