Picks and Pans Review: Packed

updated 07/02/1990 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/02/1990 01:00AM

Pretenders

Even the vibrato-rich ambrosia of Chrissie Hynde's voice can't make a modest collection such as this seem like much more than a tolerable album.

Most of the songs are duds. Listen to the murky jerk of "Downtown (Akron)," the wraithlike reggae of "How Do I Miss You?" The failed country rock of "Millionaires" isn't helped by Hynde's keening punctuations—one of the few times her singing instincts have betrayed her. Covering "May This Be Love" evokes nice memories of the Jimi Hendrix original, but this watery version sheds no illumination on the song.

That's not to say there aren't some fine songs here. The sleek pop of "Sense of Purpose," the guitar wrangle of "Let's Make a Pact" and the whipcrack rocker "No Guarantee" are worthy of the Pretenders' canon.

Or take "When Will I See You?" which Hynde wrote with Johnny Marr. In other hands it would be hopelessly bland, but the spicey languor of Hynde's delivery makes it nearly exotic. That virtuosity is Packed's saving grace. As far as the material goes, Hynde tosses too many low cards on the table, but her voice trumps a lot of hands she has no business winning. (Sire)

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