Picks and Pans Review: Porcelain

updated 03/05/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/05/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Julia Fordham

Fordham belongs to the same school of talented British female singers whose alumnae include Joan Armatrading and Sade. These are purveyors of sensitive, usually sad songs that concern themselves with discontent, romantic and otherwise.

On her second album of sophisticated folk-pop, Fordham has once again hit a small jackpot when it comes to smart arrangements and heart-on-her-sleeve lyrics ("Don't push me for my reasons or expect me to explain/ How can I in five minutes shift a lifetime's hidden pain"). Her still-uncompensated-for weakness is that her melodies don't display the infectious beauty this type of music requires to make it worth its moodiness.

The prettiest song here is "Genius," an atypical stab at samba. But Fordham's voice, while pretty, is too thin for a torchy ballad like "For You Only for You." She does create lovely, Joni Mitchellesque harmonic flourishes, as on "Lock and Key" and "Your Lovely Face."

Porcelain is a willowy, wistful collection that inflicts a series of flesh wounds. If her melodies had been a bit more seductive, Fordham might have shot us straight in the heart. (Virgin)

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