Picks and Pans Review: Giving You the Best That I Got

updated 11/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Anita Baker

That voice! Those songs! That was the reaction to Baker's 1986 breakthrough album, Rapture, a mesmerizing musical mix that jumped on your turntable and refused to get off. It was the kind of record you could listen to over and over without dulling your appetite. After that renewable feast, nearly any follow-up would be a letdown. This time around, the reaction is: That voice! Those songs? Much of the material on Giving You the Best That I Got seems a little too slick, and Baker isn't able to burrow down and inhabit the tunes as often as she did on Rapture. Of course, you can't really go too far wrong with the type of sterling pipes she's got. Always steeped in feeling, her voice swings in tone back and forth from a smoky amber resonance to a breathy silver peal. That delivery lets her assume a unique stance as a vocalist: half jazzy torch singer, half soul sister. From the start of this record, though, something is slightly off. The mid-tempo Priceless is an askew attempt to copy the magic of Rapture's title track, most notably in its stiff, walking bass line. Baker has an undeniable touch for romantic ballads such as Lead Me into Love, which features spirited backup vocals from the Perri Sisters. Baker's performance can be so moving on songs like that, you'd climb any mountain to hear her. She tends to test that loyalty on this album, though, with three-coats-of-shellac offerings like the title track. There are any number of spots on this record when she just doesn't seem to be connecting with the material. So maybe those of you who wore out six or seven copies of Rapture will end up listening to this only twice a day for the next few months. (Elektra)

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