Soundtakes

JAZZ/POP/ROCK Kiri Te Kanawa:200 Blue Skies. Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano. Nelson Riddle and his Orches- tra. (London digital 414 666-1 [LP]; 414 666-2 [CD]) -- The general rule of thumb for opera singers is that they should stay away from popular music. Eileen Farrell was the one major exception to this -- she somehow made you believe that her big voice, when tapered down, was exactly right for the intimate little dramas she was presenting.

Sadly, despite all the vigorous promotion and attention ``Blue Skies'' has been receiving, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa sounds generally un- comfortable in these 12 songs by Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter, and others. The voice is sapped of its gorgeous sound for something consistently hollow, disembodied, breathy. She shows little sense of words, of phrasing, of the mood and drama each song is pre- senting. The Nelson Riddle orchestrations are bland. If this repertoire and Nelson Riddle arrangements interest you, you might want to try ei- ther of Linda Ronstadt's superb recent albums -- ``Lush Life'' or ``What's New'' on Asylum Records. They are the real thing, and Riddle rises to the occasion with stylish, inventive arrangements.

-- Thor Eckert Jr. The Roches:190 ``Another World.'' (Warner Bros. 25321-1) -- Have the sisters Roche damaged their sound by packing the baggage of pop into their latest LP? Surprisingly, no.

``Another World'' is simply another side to this folk trio. Most of the raw edge has been honed to smooth texture. They've let their voices be tampered with a bit more in the studio and added things like synthe- sizers and electric guitars. It all makes sense, like wildflowers in a cut- glass vase.

The end result is perhaps not quite as boldly idiosyncratic as their previous albums, though, which is too bad. Nonetheless, their singing and harmonies are still blunt yet sweet-sounding; their humor, still di- rect and observant -- as on the title song. The first cut on the flip side, ``The Angry Angry Man,'' is a sad tune that speaks of self-defeating lonely feelings. It nicely blends folk with elements of rock; an electric guitar has its say among the backing instrumentals. And there's the lyrically disoriented ``Face Down at Folk City'' -- a song that pleases for its melody.

-- David Hugh Smith

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