Picks and Pans Review: Forever with You

updated 09/28/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/28/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Phyllis Hyman (Philadelphia International)

Deep and rich of voice and languorous of style, Hyman was en route to becoming one of the elder stateswomen of jazz-R&B fusion when, at 45, she committed suicide three years ago. For this album, Philadelphia producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff rounded up unreleased tracks from her last few recording sessions.

At times their choices seem a little sober-sided, including a pedantic tune about the importance of treating children well ("The Kids") and another song ("The Strength of a Woman") that evokes Helen Reddy's ponderous, anthemlike hit of 1972, "I Am Woman." Such heaviness of message ill-served Hyman, who not only often sounded like jazz singer Carmen McRae but occasionally lapsed into the same tone of put-upon joylessness to which McRae was susceptible. Thankfully, a duet with the Luther Vandross wannabe Damon enlivens the mood dramatically and helps make this album more than just an item for Hyman archivists.

Bottom Line: A welcome voice from the past

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