1990's Don't Explain lp finds Robert Palmer in an ambitious mood, attempting to highlight both his love of world music and jazz standards on an album featuring trademark hard rock. Essentially, this 18 song collection comes across like three separate mini albums, lacking a sense of cohesiveness when played as a whole, a jarring juxtoposition of divergent musical styles instead of one record. However, there are plenty of gems among the 18 tracks featured. Palmer showcases his love for African influenced melodies with the uptempo "Housework", complete with clever humorous lyrics, and does a credible reggae version of Bob Dylan's "I'll Be Your Babt Tonight" with help from UB40 believe it or not. Actually, that song was a major hit single in the UK!! The first third of the album is dominated by the rock material, especially on the fast paced guitar driven metal songs "You're Mother Should Have Told You" and "Can't Get Enough Of A Good Thing". The highlight is a rock power ballad version of Otis Redding's "Dreams To Remember" where Palmer has to flex some vocal muscle and invoke some soul not present in the faster paced rock songs. "You're Amazing" is a pleasant rocker (and a Top 40 US Hit Single), milder than the previous mentioned songs and similair to the singer's 1988 hit "Simply Irresistible", although not as good.
The last third of this set sees the singer in full romance mode, alternating between inspired original compositions such as "Aeroplane" and "Not A Word" and Palmer's own take of classic bits such as "You're So Desirable". The first two feature excellent string arrangements and show Palmer capable of conveying emotion vocally without being over the top while the latter plays to his vocal strengths with a more happy lyric and upbeat tempo. The title track is a Bille Holiday standard where Palmer's subtle, understated vocals strongly convey the emotions of longing and pain expressed in the lyrics. In between it all is a unique medley of 2 Marvin Gaye hits, "Mercy Mercy Me" and "I Want You", where the singer literally creates a whole new song, using the pain and anguish over a world going bad from Gaye's powerful environmental ode as the bridge into a lyrical pleading for a chance at romance from Gaye's second number. Sticking with an arrangement culled largely from the first song, the lyrics provide near perfect segue and Palmer raises the bar with some of his most powerful vocalizing in the song's second half. It's little wonder this song was a major hit single in both the US and UK, arguably the best known song in this collection. Overall, there are a good 12-14 songs in this set that would make a really good Robert Palmer record, the problem here isn't that there isn't enough, it's that there is a bit too much. Still a good buy, with a lot of interesting material alongside some enjoyable guitar driven rock songs. In fact, Palmer recruits Steve Stevens from Billy Idol's band to assist on some of the more edgy material, an excellent choice. Robert Palmer fans will definately enjoy.