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DES'REE (Buy CDs by this artist)
Mind Adventures (Epic) 1992
I Ain't Movin' (550 Music/Epic) 1994

If every era deserves its very own Melanie — a good-hearted, pure-voiced idealist bringing messages of positive inspiration to a world in deep denial — ours belongs to Des'ree (Weekes). This London-born daughter of Barbados addresses such challenges to modern individualism as competition, despair, weakness, mundanity, cynicism and intimidation. But rather than offer Aquarian Age populism, Des'ree sells I'm-OK-you're-OK solipsism. Essentially, she's a spiritual motivational speaker, delivering her messages in a smoky, handsomely modulated alto amid shimmering adult funk-pop that owes equal debts to Carole King, Sting, Lionel Richie, Joni Mitchell and Kenny G.

Overseen by multi-instrumentalists/producers Phil Legg and Ashley Ingram, Mind Adventures is a good start but not quite a good album. Too intent on demonstrating her vocal prowess and dancing around her essential themes, Des'ree strains and stretches-waxing jazzy, bluesy, folky and more-with the overexertion of a nervous novice. She touches on her true ethos with "Stand My Own Ground" and "Competitive World," but spends most of the album pledging her devotion to mother, lover and Lord. The music flits around from tasteful dance grooves to swoony piano ballads; very little of it suits her ethereal presence.

I Ain't Movin' gets the balance right and goes far enough out on a lyrical limb to allow the young optimist to stake out a distinctive place for herself. The self-assuring mantra of "You Gotta Be" became her breakthrough hit, but "Strong Enough," "Crazy Maze" and the title track strike similar philosophical notes; the album is singleminded in its commitment to making a better world via personal bestness. A fine singer who provides herself with alluring, uplifting melodies (given added appeal by sensitive arrangements), Des'ree is, unfortunately, no deep thinker, and her self-help exhortations to "Go ahead release your fears" and "Learn to love yourself/It's a great, great feeling" are na´ve and numbing, aphorisms that don't make sweet music. In "Herald the Day," when she offers "Something's gonna happen/It's written in the air/Something's gonna happen/Revolution is everywhere," it becomes evident how trivial this talented musician's opinions really are.

[Ira Robbins]