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THE RECORD RACK

* * * * Great Balls of Fire , * * * Good Vibrations , * * Maybe Baby , * Running on Empty : THUNDERDOME POP

May 03, 1987|KRISTINE McKENNA

* "FEMALE TROUBLE." Nona Hendryx. EMI-America. This is the kind of music you hear blasting from boutiques in shopping malls. It's the kind of stuff you hear during the closing credits of formulaic Hollywood movies, the kind of stuff that wins Grammys. This is the sound of Western culture, and it's pretty frightening. Homogenized, faceless and dull, it shakes your booty and puts your mind to sleep while deftly emptying your wallet.

The name on this record is Nona Hendryx but it could just as easily be Tina Turner, Sheila E. or any one of a dozen corporate rock thrushes because they all say the same thing: "I'm too hot to handle. . . . You just need someone to love. . . . Drive me wild," bla, bla, bla. I'm sure Hendryx is a lovely woman who's paid her dues, but lets face it, music like this is as rare as an AM-PM Mini-Mart.

Grossly over-produced by a revolving crew of knob-twirlers, "Female Trouble" is a textbook example of a funk-rock style best described as Thunderdome Pop. Strident, synthesized rhythms punctuated with squealing guitar solos, it's a bombastic recipe that demands a vocalist who likes to work up a sweat--and Hendryx is one of the leaders of the neo-Johnny Ray school of soul screamers.

Approaching singing as though it were a form of pumping iron, these gals think they've really gotten over if they're on their knees shrieking and weeping by the song's conclusion. Billie Holiday did more with a half-second of strategically placed silence.

Naturally, the album features celebrity cameo appearances, and of course it includes a mystery track by a Minneapolis composer who prefers to remain anonymous. As if half the releases of the last year haven't included songs by Prince!

And yes, coming as it does in this post-Band Aid era, there's the obligatory social conscience tune. A tribute to Nelson and Winnie Mandela written by Hendryx, "Winds of Change" is the one decent track on the record, made tolerable by the fact that for once Hendryx doesn't feel compelled to toss in every note in her considerable register.

A press release accompanying "Female Trouble" quotes Hendryx vowing to "spend the rest of the year selling buckets and buckets of records." With her artistic priorities in the kind of order corporate bosses understand, Hendryx is a pedigreed workhorse, bred and groomed to fill conglomerate coffers.

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