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WATERLILLIES (Buy CDs by this artist)
Envoluptuosity (Kinetic/Sire/Reprise) 1992
Tempted (Kinetic/Sire/Reprise) 1994

On first listen, the music of New York City's Waterlillies — singer Sandra Jill Alikas-St. Thomas and instrumentalist Ray Carroll — could easily be shelved alongside Book of Love and A Flock of Seagulls: thin, catchy synthpop with a recently expired sell-by date. But Envoluptuousity is redeemed by several factors, including Alikas' flexible, disciplined soprano and Carroll's sterling production. Despite lyrics that tend toward the tone of diary entries (not always a bad thing), the stylistic range the two bring to their songwriting buoys the nine cuts, from the dreamy "Sunshine Like You" and "Hip to My Way" (Alikas' take on Carroll's life as a young urban homosexual) through the piano-based house of "Tired of You" and a couple of ballads, "The Only One (I Could Stand)" and "Mermaid Song."

Although the debut sank with barely a ripple, the two returned two years later with Tempted. The album kicks off with the title tune, a rousing dance track that garnered a fair share of radio and club play; released as the followup single, "Never Get Enough," fared even better thanks to a couple of minimal but muscular remixes by Junior Vasquez. Elsewhere, "Supersonic" incorporates elements of trance, "I Don't Want Your Love" uses a hip-hop beat, and Alikas flexes her developing diva chops on down-tempo numbers like "How Does It Feel?" and "Take My Breath Away" (not a Berlin cover). Except for a wholly unnecessary a cappella rendition of Bacharach/David's "Close to You," the Waterlillies' sophomore album stretches the boundaries of a limited aesthetic palette with greater returns than the debut. That wasn't enough to keep the duo together, however, and they parted ways in 1995.

[Kurt B. Reighley]