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POP MUSIC REVIEWS : Back-Up Singers Out-Flash Anderson

November 14, 1994|DENNIS HUNT

Carleen Anderson is part of a new breed of eclectic, feisty female soul singer. Like Me'Shell NdegeOcello and Dionne Farris, she has varied influences--rap, jazz, dance, funk and rock--and tends toward tough, intelligent, feminist-leaning statements. Not content with being gospel-riffing retreads, these women prefer trail-blazing and experimenting with new, soul-based styles.

In her late show at LunaPark on Friday, Anderson didn't quite live up to the high expectations. She has a deep, dusky voice, some haunting, compelling songs (such as "Nervous Breakdown" and "Mama Said," from her debut solo album "True Spirit"), as well as a fairly charismatic presence. But this simply wasn't a knock-your-socks-off performance.

One of her problems was her back-up band, Groove Collective. This large outfit, which boasts a punchy horn section and plays a jazz-soul-rock style, was so good it was often hard to focus on Anderson. The crisp, well-crafted instrumentals didn't just enhance Anderson's songs, but thoroughly overwhelmed some of them.

During Groove Collective's funky, foot-stomping opening set, the question was, could this band tone down its dazzle when backing up Anderson? The answer: a resounding no.

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