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RECORD RACK

August 01, 1993|ROBERT HILBURN

OLETA ADAMS

"Evolution"

Mercury

* * *

Adams' two Grammy nominations--for the vocals on her 1990 hit "Get Back" and her 1991 interpretation of Elton John & Bernie Taupin's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"--were no flukes, as the former Kansas City lounge singer demonstrates on this frequently striking sophomore collection.

Several of the 12 songs (half of which she wrote) are the type of dramatic, aggressively arranged statements that sound like main themes in movies--the kind of super-pop ballads that often end up as centerpieces on albums by Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston. But don't worry: Adams, who combines traces of jazz, soul and gospel into a smart and sophisticated form of contemporary pop, avoids the vocal and production overkill that frequently accompanies the work of her famous rivals.

Though there are lapses in the album (the hollow observations in Diane Warren's "The Day I Stop Loving You" and the clumsy social examinations of the title tune), most of these tracks are exquisite--filled with authority and grace. After years of longing for a great pop singer with a vision, it looks like we may have finally found one.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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