Picks and Pans Review: The Right Stuff

updated 07/25/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/25/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Vanessa Williams

Someone who heard this record and did not know Vanessa Williams would not necessarily think, "Aha! This record was made by a woman who is best known for taking off her clothes in various increments in front of a camera." The former Miss America and sometime soft-core pornography model has a perfectly marketable, disco-funk voice and hits the notes and the beats. She is willing to forgo the production subterfuges and expose her talents. Let's rephrase that. She is willing to let her voice stand alone at times—on the Bill Withers-Larry Carlton song Whatever Happens, for instance—without the camouflage of backup singers and synthesizer cosmetics. You could play this record at a party, and nobody who wasn't going to leave anyway would walk out. The question remains: Would this record have been made if the highlights of Williams' bio sheet were, say, the presidency of the Future Teachers Club in high school, field hockey at Smith and eight months of work for Mother Teresa in Calcutta? Well, what with Phyllis George out of the public eye, Bess Myerson in various hot waters and Bert Parks who knows where, these are hard times for Miss America pageant alums. So let's just say that it doesn't seem unthinkable that Williams might have slipped past a few more talented singers on strength of personality and luck to get the chance to make a big-time album. And it doesn't seem unthinkable, either, that if she sticks to it, she could make a much more entertaining, interesting record than this. (Wing/Polygram)

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