The timing of a solo project has never been as golden as it is here.

The timing of a solo project has never been as golden as it is here. After hitting the big time with '92's Grave Dancer's Union, Soul Asylum seemingly set the record for quickest estrangement from the mainstream by a credible rock act in the '90s. Though it arrived just three years later, the underappreciated Let Your Dim Light Shine was ignored by the masses. Then, the band gave even its devoted reason to lose faith with '98's dull Candy From a Stranger, on which frontman Pirner and company seem out of new ideas. But with Faces and Names, Pirner restores that faith-at least partially. The organ-led old-school soul cut "Feel the Need," punctuated with muted staccato strumming and handclaps, is one of this year's gems. Unfortunately, the song is so good that it leaves nearly everything else sounding mediocre. Other highlights ("Levitation," the Prince-like "Tea") are also results of Pirner flirting with '70s soul, making it all the more clear that he need look no further than "Feel the Need" for he or his band's future.-WO