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NEW RELEASES : Unconvincing 'Moments' as Lady Day

August 22, 1993|LEONARD FEATHER

DIANA ROSS

"Stolen Moments"

Motown

* * 1/2

Well, you can't blame the lady for trying. Just 21 years have gone by since Ross starred in a truly execrable but highly profitable movie based on the life of Billie Holiday, "Lady Sings the Blues." The memory having faded, Ross now brings us a set of songs associated with Holiday, backed by jazz notables who help create whatever authenticity there is.

The trouble is that what we have here is a woman's job taken on by an overgrown girl. The Ross sound has never lost that faintly immature quality. Singing "Don't Explain" or "Good Morning, Heartache," she can't quite convince you that she has lived these lyrics as Lady Day could.

Most laughable is "Gimme a Pigfoot," which conjures up an image of some studio grip handing Ross a pig foot and explaining what it is. Aside from the mismatches of song and singer, there is the fact that you can't avoid comparisons; is there anyone left who has never heard Billie singing "God Bless the Child"?

Surprisingly, Ross brings conviction to "Strange Fruit," strong emotion to "My Man" and sounds comfortable with some of the up-tempo tunes.

Still, Diana may tumble, Gibraltar may crumble, it's only made of clay, but Lady Day is here to stay.

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

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