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POP MUSIC | Record Rack

** 1/2 PATTI LaBELLE, "When a Woman Loves," MCA

October 22, 2000|CONNIE JOHNSON

As concepts go, this sounds like a winner: a LaBelle album penned almost entirely by Diane Warren. Who better than this soul veteran to interpret a composer whose full-throttle power ballads practically demand a singer unafraid of unabashed emotions?

Well, there's theory and then there's this good but underachieving project (in stores Tuesday). Everything is very professional and polished, but the sparks are in short supply. LaBelle's uncharacteristic laid-back melancholia pervades much of this collection, even on tracks that call for shaking of the rafters, and the absence of energy and sass is disconcerting.

"Call Me Gone" is the kind of funky, confrontational tale that could take some grandiose theatricality, but LaBelle doesn't have much fun with it. She does cut loose on the disco-inspired "Too Many Tears, Too Many Times" and "Time Will," but elsewhere she sounds emotionally distant. That restraint actually works on her version of Trisha Yearwood's "I'll Still Love You More." That LaBelle's handling of Warren's material isn't more satisfying is puzzling, especially since the pairing should have been the perfect pop/soul union.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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