AaliyahOne In a Million (Blackground/Atlantic 92715)Some...

CD REVIEWS

September 05, 1996|By J.D. Considine

Aaliyah

One In a Million (Blackground/Atlantic 92715)

Some singers are blessed with voices so beautiful that, as the saying goes, they'd sound good just reading the newspaper. Most, though, need strong material to make the most of their gifts, as Aaliyah inadvertently proves on her sophomore release, "One in a Million." Although there's a lot to be said for the silken tone and supple phrasing she pulls from her girlish alto, the songs assembled here rarely give her a chance to show off those strengths. Instead, she spends her time layering vocal ornamentation over rhythm tracks, an approach that may be in line with what R&B radio wants but often leaves her sounding like a guest artist on her own album (as on "A Girl Like You," where Aaliyah's high, breathy chorus sounds like mere background against Treach's powerhouse rap). That Aaliyah is capable of handling a full-strength melody is made plain by her version of the Isley Brothers oldie "Choosey Lover," which she handles with precisely the sort of suave assurance the song demands. At least, that's the way it works on the melodic, "old school" portion of the song; once she gets into the beat-driven "new school" part of the arrangement, the tune and much of her charm disappears. Too bad, because succumbing to that kind of useless trendiness doesn't make her one in a million, just one of the crowd.

Tina Turner

Wildest Dreams (Virgin 41920)

For someone who built her reputation on body heat and vocal abandon, it's amazing how understated Tina Turner sounds these days. Maybe she's trying to redefine her image, or perhaps her old singing style has become passe; but for whatever the reason, there's not a lot of wildness to be had on "Wildest Dreams." Good grooves and high-gloss production? Sure. With production by Trevor Horn, Nellee Hooper and the Pet Shop Boys (among others), these songs have no trouble wrapping club-conscious rhythm arrangements in a blanket of orchestral opulence. But instead of giving Turner the kind of boost she got from Phil Spector on "River Deep, Mountain High," such tracks as "Whatever You Want" and "Thief of Hearts" merely pull her along in their wake, while "Whatever You Want" never quite delivers the fire-and-ice contrast expected of a Barry White/Tina Turner duet. That's not to say every track falls flat. "Confidential" keeps its Pet Shop Boys-produced pulse percolating just quietly enough to emphasize the heat in Turner's slow-boil delivery, while her faithful remake of Massive Attack's "Unfinished Sympathy" brings a welcome world-weariness to the tune. Too bad those moments are so rare here.

Trisha Yearwood

Everybody Knows (MCA 11477)

With her big, brassy voice and rock-savvy sensibility, it would have been very easy for Trisha Yearwood to have fashioned herself as a latter-day Linda Ronstadt. But the sensibility that VTC comes across in "Everybody Knows" has more in common with Mary Chapin Carpenter than the queen of '70s So-Cal rock. For one thing, Yearwood doesn't pull out all the stops unless the song demands it, so even though the boisterous "Believe Me Baby" finds her operating at full power from start to finish, "Under the Rainbow" is kept at a steady simmer, the better to emphasize the quiet confidence that lies at the song's core. Part of this approach has to do with making the protagonists of her songs seem more believable; after all, who'd believe the heroine of "Hello, I'm Gone" if she sounded like a steamroller? But if Yearwood's approach tends to make the songs themselves mean more -- it's the understatement in "Little Hercules" that makes it such a worthy homage to the self-employed -- it also makes the moments when Yearwood really does belt out a chorus, as on the title tune, that much more memorable.

Pub Date: 9/05/96

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