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RECORD RACK

* * * * Great Balls of Fire * * * Good Vibrations * * Maybe Baby * Running on Empty : : Meli'sa Smolders but Angela's on Fire

November 29, 1987|CONNIE JOHNSON

* * 1/2 MELI'SA MORGAN. "Good Love." Capitol.

* * * ANGELA WINBUSH. "Sharp." Mercury.

Last year, Meli'sa Morgan heated up the black charts with a remake of Prince's "Do Me Baby." There's nothing quite as steamy as that on her second album, although her slicked-up and stylish version of "Love Changes," a '70s black-chart hit by Mother's Finest, is fine--not as raw-boned and emotional as the original, but OK . Most of the album's spark is provided by producer/composer Paul Laurence Jones' "If You Can Do It: I Can Too!!," a funky bill of rights directed at the singer's nightlife-loving mate.

Morgan and her writing partner Lesette Wilson produced most of this album. There are shades of Chaka Khan in the softly jazz-hued "Here Comes the Night." Morgan, formerly a backup singer for Khan, sings with a lot of the same brassy, sassy inflections. If more of Morgan's material matched the consistent fire and flair of Khan's, she'd really be on to something. As it is, her approach still seems a little too safe and conservative.

More adventurous is Angela Winbush. After several years spent as half of the pop/soul duo Rene & Angela, Winbush delivers a debut solo album that's an arresting example of her range and individuality. Although the lyrics of "Sensual Lover" are nearly buried in orchestration and Winbush's own note-twisting vocalese, the song is as frankly sexual as many of Marvin Gaye's hits. On every track, Winbush sings as if she's got something at stake. And while albums by many artists are collections of songs that could be sung by anyone, some of Winbush's tunes seem intensely personal.

That's especially true of "You Had a Good Girl," on which Winbush's fury at a former love comes through loud and clear. Conversely, her gentleness on the black-chart-topping "Angel" makes it one of the most lushly romantic black pop ballads of the year, and her duet with Ronald Isley on "Hello Beloved" is equally affecting. Winbush sounds like a woman with a lot of musical ideas and all the talent it takes to execute them.

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