Picks and Pans Review: Midnight Lounge

updated 03/17/2003 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/17/2003 01:00AM

Jody Watley (Shanachie)

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In the late '80s Jody Watley was a dance-pop diva on the order of Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul, but she spent most of the '90s looking for a new sound as her career faded. Watley's latest album—her first U.S. release in eight years—finds the singer wisely returning to the dance floor with a grooving, club-ready collection. Lush, jazz-tinged house tracks-with touches of electronica, two-step and even soul-disco—provide the perfect backdrop for Watley's sultry vocals. On "Photographs," which recalls Chic's 1979 hit "Good Times," Watley evokes disco-era Diana Ross. Later she rides the hypnotic tribal beats on the 8½-minute "Saturday Night Experience." Most surprising, though, is Watley's radical reworking of Peter Gabriel's 1986 gem "Don't Give Up," on which the midtempo techno throb sets a mesmerizing mood for the deeply moving lyric.

BOTTOM LINE: Watley gets her groove back

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