"BE YOURSELF TONIGHT." Eurythmics. RCA.
Like David Bowie a decade earlier, Annie Lennox came on as a moon-age daydream and turns out to be a soul singer.
Lennox and her partner, arranger-guitarist-producer Dave Stewart, made their initial impact in 1983 as an electro-pop entry whose high-profile image helped them ride the video wave into the Big Time. An intriguing symbol of playful androgyny and fierce independence, Lennox made herself an otherworldly vehicle for Eurythmics' haunting, charged music.
Since that arrival, Lennox has come down to earth without sacrificing any of her charisma, and the Stax-with-synthesizers direction of Eurythmics' '84 concerts reaches a pinnacle in "Be Yourself Tonight," their third U.S. album.
Lennox's baptism of fire is an all-stops-out duet with Aretha Franklin on "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves," a stirring gospel-blues anthem that's destined to become a staple at feminist rallies. Vocal exchanges don't come any more torrid than this one. It's a mark of Lennox's adaptability that she can turn right around and blend voices with Elvis Costello in "Adrian," where a swirling pop arrangement laces the lyric's apprehension of nuclear annihilation with a bittersweet flavor.
Elsewhere, the material is up and down. "Here Comes That Sinking Feeling" and "Better to Have Lost in Love (Than Never to Have Loved at All)" cover earlier Eurythmics territory solidly but without much new inspiration, and the rhythm ballad "There Must Be an Angel (Playing With My Heart)" is too sweet for comfort, even with a Stevie Wonder harmonica workout.
But Lennox's commanding performance makes these songs better than they are, and sends the good ones--the new single "Would I Lie to You," "I Love You Like a Ball and Chain" (with its booming male chorus) and "It's All Right (Baby's Coming Back)"--into the stratosphere. Pushed by sinewy, Memphis-style R&B grooves, the Princess of Wails adds a startling, passionate freedom to the firmness and radiance of her established vocal style. Annie unleashed is one of rock's true natural wonders.