Picks and Pans Review: Soul Exposed

updated 05/28/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/28/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Melba Moore

Most of this album consists of routine-to-enjoyable pop soul, with Moore applying her strikingly clear and strong voice to such mid-tempo romantic tunes as "Do You Really Want My Love," "I Love Being in Love," "New Love," "Don't You Want to Be My Lover" and the aptly titled "Too Many Lovers." (She also does an overwrought version of "Stormy Weather" that won't make anyone forget Lena Home.)

Everything else, however, seems inconsequential next to an epic version of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," a 90-year-old hymn known in the black community as "The Negro National Anthem." In the liner notes, film director Spike Lee says of the song, " 'The Negro National Anthem' represents the dignity, strength and hope of the African-American people, as well as our faith in our struggles for four centuries."

The song, written by early NAACP executive secretary James Weldon Johnson and his brother J. Rosamond, is uncommonly powerful, graceful and eloquent: "Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us/ Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us." And Moore, who among her other volunteer activities is national chairperson for the National Council of Negro Women membership drive, enlisted a remarkable array of black I celebrities to perform the song with her, including Stevie Wonder, Bobby Brown, Anita Baker, Take 6, Dionne Warwick, Jeffrey Osborne and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

There are two versions of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" on the album. One has fewer guest performers—they seem a bit more as if they're pulling background chorus duty. By far the more moving is the mix in which, after Jackson's invocation, they all take turns soloing, "We Are the World" style. While the song is most specific in addressing the experiences and aspirations of black Americans, its lessons of pride and integrity carry a message for everyone. (Capitol)

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