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RECORD RACK

Chrissie: Tough, Tender

November 02, 1986|KRISTINE McKENNA

"GET CLOSE." The Pretenders. Sire. Chrissie Hynde is Billie Holiday, Bacharach & David and the Shangri-Las rolled up into one fantastic package. A gifted writer whose songs are consistently innovative, she's easily the sexiest white female pop singer currently working the boards.

Her range, inventive phrasing and the way she personalizes her songs with peculiar flourishes--a giggle, a growl--is on par with the great vocal stylists of popular music. The most endearing thing about Hynde, however, is the way she comes on like a tough street-corner chick, then reveals herself in her songs to be just another sentimental dreamer strung out on love.

"Get Close" finds Hynde backed by a new crop of musicians, but with every personnel change it becomes increasingly evident that it doesn't much matter who plays behind her, because Hynde is the Pretenders. Conspicuously absent from the record is Hynde's husband Jim Kerr, leader of Scottish group the Simple Minds; the Kerrs are to be commended for keeping their marriage out of their art.

When Hynde gets political, as she has a tendency to do, her music goes slightly strident and self-righteous. The weak links in this otherwise excellent album are "Dance," a contemptuous indictment of politicians (it hardly bears repeating that politicians are corrupt), and "How Much Did You Get for Your Soul," a song reminiscent of David Bowie's "Fame."

The lyric "millions of kids are looking at you / You say 'Let them drink soda pop' " suggests that "Soul" was written with Michael Jackson in mind. Though Jackson's weird career moves are a worthy subject for examination, this tune pales next to the five rapturously romantic love songs that compose the core of the album.

The best of the lot, "Tradition of Love," is a deliriously sensual track featuring one of the most beautifully subtle vocals of Hynde's career. Completing the LP is a version of Jimi Hendrix's "Room Full of Mirrors." It's a big job stepping into Hendrix's shoes but Hynde gets away with it; though she's happily married and a mommy to boot, she's still tough and still has one foot in the street.

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