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WINTER ALBUM ROUNDUP : Motown Rookie, Vet : Check List * * * * Great Balls of Fire * * * Good Vibrations * * Maybe Baby * Running on Empty :

February 14, 1988|CONNIE JOHNSON

* *BROWNMARK. "Just Like That." Motown. * * * STACY LATTISAW. "Personal Attention." Motown. Brownmark has impressive credentials. He spent several years as the bassist in Prince's band the Revolution, and was one of the organizers of another Prince satellite band, Mazarati.

He wears several hats on his own debut album: composer, producer, arranger, singer and player of all instruments save for horns and a few piano and lead guitar solos. Some of his vocal phrasing recalls early Rick James, and he even borrowed a signature Slick Rick lyric--"I'm a sucker for your love"--for one of his tracks, "What Do You Want From Me?"

What this all adds up to is a record that has a few high points, such as Bill Carruthers' funked-out piano solos on "Contagious" and the rock instrumental "Stakeout," and Brownmark's own driving bass lines on "Want You Back."

What it doesn't add up to is much excitement. Expectations run high for anyone coming out of the Prince camp, and while that might put an undue burden on Brownmark, that's the challenge he has to address.

It may be that Brownmark's musical ideas sound best when executed by someone else. He wrote and produced two of the strongest cuts on Stacy Lattisaw's latest album: the title track, on which she comes across like a Janet Jackson-style tough cookie, and "Changes," in which she aggressively announces, "I'm learning how to take control!"

What lifts Lattisaw's album above the ordinary is the gutsiness and conviction she's invested in the project. This young vocalist, best known for past teen hits like "Let Me Be Your Angel" and a remake of "Love on a Two Way Street," has often seemed emotionally detached from her material. On "Personal Attention," she seems 100% there .

This could be a breakthrough album for Lattisaw, just as "Control" was for Janet Jackson. It's not as autobiographical-sounding, but it does reveal a side of her that seems grown-up, soulful and highly personal. Tracks like "Love Town," "Let Me Take You Down" and "Every Drop of Your Love" are coming-of-age statements from a pop/soul performer who always had potential, but never pushed it quite this far.

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