Picks and Pans Review: Red Hot Rhythm & Blues

updated 06/22/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/22/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Diana Ross

As she often does, Ross seems to try to please everyone with this record. There's the semi-salacious, overheated dance number, Dirty Looks ("undress me with your eyes"). There's Selfish One, which has all the perky, preening quality of an old Supremes hit. There's the romantic Luther Vandross-Skip Anderson tune It's Hard for Me to Say. There's the R&B throwback There Goes My Baby. All this is perfectly serviceable pop music, smoothly performed. Far too much of it, though, seems too far below Ross's ability. She is a singer with a unique voice—How many singers possess such a combination of delicacy, sensuality and melody?—and a prodigious amount of style. So why is she singing such hopelessly trite songs as Wintley Phipps's Tell Me Again: "Tell me again that you'll love me/ Until the stars fall from the sky/ And the love you have for me/ Will never die"? Many of the arrangements too are mundane, so the musicians behind Ross never can rise to the occasion of backing such a talented singer. (Listen sometime to the records that demonstrate how the always estimable Basie and Ellington bands became even better with Frank Sinatra singing in front of them.) All this is dramatically demonstrated on this LP when Ross sings the wistful Leonard Cohen-Sharon Robinson song Summertime. It's a reminder of what a marvelous musician there is behind Ross's sometimes glitzy facade and of how enjoyable it is to hear her break out. (RCA)

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