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*** MARY J. BLIGE "The Tour" MCA

July 26, 1998|Connie Johnson

Live albums can reveal much more about an artist than some studio-produced recordings ever could. Great artists are in their element in a live setting, and even the most pedestrian song can grow a personality in front of a receptive audience.

This album was recorded at different stops during Blige's 1997-98 "Share My World" tour, and it captures some of the typically rowdy splendor that's inherent in her concerts. While some songs are performed in too perfunctory a manner, whizzing past you before they can truly register, Blige lingers when it really counts. "Seven Days," a single she cut last year with George Benson, is transformed into a blistering expression of anger and passion, while "Everything" is pure, homegirl-style joy.

Blige (who appears at Friday's "Midsummer Night Magic" benefit at the Universal Amphitheatre) is so raw and complex that the performer she is now may not resemble the one she'll be 10--or even five--years from now. No longer the tragic, hurting figure she once seemed to be, the Blige-in-control image she presents here is one fans will find hard to resist.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent).

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Hear the Music

Excerpts from these albums and other recent releases are available on The Times' World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: http://www.latimes.com/soundclips

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