Picks and Pans Review: Kiss Me with the Wind

updated 08/20/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/20/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Brenda Russell

Since Russell, a Brooklyn-born singer-songwriter, had her big 1988 hit, "Piano in the Dark," she has spent a lot of time touring. She probably found out quickly that you need some fast numbers to hold an audience's attention. She has certainly stocked this record with some up-tempo grabbers.

That decision may make her shows punchier, but it means Kiss Me with the Wind lacks some of the languorous splendor of its predecessor, Get Here. For instance, the bucking beat producer Narada Michael Walden gives to the title track detracts from the melody's prettiness. The dance mood is better served on the breezy funk of "Stupid Love." What works best is Russell's revamp of her composition "Dinner with Gershwin," a hit for Donna Summer. Instead of tooling around gently with the song, Brenda unexpectedly and effectively throws it into four-wheel drive.

Whenever Russell settles down, the quality picks up, as on the pleading ballad "Stop Running Away," the regret-tinged "Justice in Truth" and the velvet glove of "Waiting for You," which Earl Klugh airbrushes with his acoustic guitar work.

As a singer, Russell has grown more daring and adaptable. This material forces her to stretch a bit too far out. But even taking too many chances, she sounds wonderfully smooth. Russell, along with Angela Winbush and Valerie Simpson, is one of those sophisticated ladies of soul who, it seems, can do no wrong. (A&M)

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