THE SOUTHERN HARMONY AND MUSICAL COMPANION
(Def American 26916) When most rock acts talk about having "soul," they usually mean it in the spiritual, not musical, sense of the word. Not the Black Crowes, though. As "The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion" makes plain, this hard-rocking sextet is as at home with the funky grooves and gospel-style vocal harmony as it is with roaring guitars and arena-rock bravado. Of course, a lot of that has to do with singer Chris Robinson, who pumps enough passion into songs like "Remedy" or the bluesy "Time Will Tell" to make the music smolder and the listener sweat. But the Crowes' real strength is its rhythm section, a lithe and lively unit that generates heat whether it's working a slow groove like that to "Sometimes Salvation," or a blistering boogie riff like the one in "Black Moon Creeping."
Annie Lennox (Arista 18709)
In the world of opera, the diva is considered to be a goddess-like performer, a singer of exquisite taste and expertise. But in soul music circles, the term connotes emotional power more than mere virtuosity, and that's the meaning Annie Lennox had in mind when calling her first solo album "Diva." Unfortunately, her own vocal strengths tend more toward technical polish than soul-style credibility, meaning that as easily as she navigates the slippery rhythms of dance songs like "Money Can't Buy It," or the dynamic range of ballads like the quietly dramatic "Why," her performances invariably offer more polish than passion. And though there's nothing wrong with a well-sung song, it hardly seems something a true diva would do.