Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Recordings

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Recordings

Article excerpt

"WHIP-SMART" Liz Phair (Matador/Atlantic)

Liz Phair had a lot to prove with her second album. Rarely has so much been written about someone whose output is so small.

On the strength of last year's "Exile in Guyville" she's been cast as the savior of rock 'n' roll, the voice of a new generation of women, an independent rock goddess from the coolest neighborhood in the new capital of alternative, a snooty sellout from the suburbs or some combination of those. That's a lot of baggage to carry into the recording studio.

Then there's Phair's frankness about sex and her liberal use of obscenities. She probably attracted as much attention for her nearly pornographic description of her urges on "Flower" from "Guyville" as for anything else.

None of it would really matter, though, if Phair didn't rock.

Phair sings about kisses and love making on the giddy love song "Supernova," and it's as lustful, sparkling, hook-filled and irresistible as anything that's been on the radio in a long time.

The anger that fueled some of the songs on "Guyville" hasn't entirely disappeared, though Phair came to her second album as a woman in a committed relationship. That may explain her references to jealousy, complaining on "X-Ray Man" that "You're not satisfied looking at me, you're always checking out the girl behind."

Then again it may not. Phair is clearly clever at manipulating her image, and for all we know the sex talk may be hype. "I'm secretly timid," she says on the album-opening "Chopsticks," a dry recitation of a one-night stand that didn't happen.

Still, she sounds more convincing on "Supernova" and again on "Jealousy," as she sings, "I saw lips, I saw thighs, I saw secret positions that we'd never try." By the end of "Jealousy" she seems to be identifying with the guy - switching gender perspective is a frequent trait of "Whip-Smart."

It's premature to anoint Phair as the voice of anyone but herself; it's not too soon to anoint her as a great rock 'n' roller and "Whip-Smart" as one of the top albums of the year. Eric Fidler, Associated Press

***** "SONGS" Luther Vandross (Epic)

Luther, Luther, Luther. Your voice is so luxuriant, so unquestionably glorious. If only your taste weren't so absolutely, unashamedly awful.

We could listen to you sing the Yellow Pages. And, Lord knows, that would beat hearing Lionel Richie's "Hello." Or Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "What the World Needs Now." Or your duet with Mariah Carey on "Endless Love," so terrifyingly destined for radio overkill.

To be fair, it's hard to resist McFadden & Whitehead's "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now," Aretha's "Since You Been Gone" or the mountainous kitsch of "The Impossible Dream. …

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