Kathie Lee Gifford

Heart of a Woman

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How credible is it that Kathie Lee has suddenly felt an urge to sing sexy pop and finds satisfaction in a Jennifer Lopez-inspired photo shoot? One minute she is co-hosting morning TV with Regis Philbin and releasing albums of mushy standards, and now the question is -- how does mommy explain to Cody and Cassidy why she is wearing nothing but a long shirt with her legs spread seductively on the CD insert? Kathie Lee seems torn between two images, the woman she is and the woman she wants listeners to believe she is; that is nothing new, but this album is a clear example. Heart of a Woman is as frustrating as Kathie Lee herself, and no matter how much you want to hate it you cannot because its good points are exceptionally good. Setting aside skepticism, Heart of a Woman picks up some moments of exhilarating momentum and Kathie Lee's voice is very often beautiful. The first single, "Love Never Fails," is heavily reminiscent of Celine Dion's "That's The Way It Is" but with such a glorious hook, you do not care where its inspiration came from -- you want to hear it again, and fast. "The Hardest Part" is only a step behind (its remix would make a much better choice for radio play) and these two songs are top-quality pop that will shock just about anyone who will not suspect Kathie Lee as the central voice. The let down of the album is that it does not follow through on the exceptional. If Kathie Lee wanted to perform a real makeover, someone should have spent as much time on the other tracks as the few that were intended as singles. If that had happened, Kathie Lee could have had an album every bit as good as top-selling artists -- better even. But the blazing stylish tracks have been supplemented with weaker ballads. Some are enjoyable, like "Always Been You" and "In This Life," which has also appeared on albums by Bette Midler and Ronan Keating. Some are not enjoyable -- the Shania Twain wannabe "Heartache, Heartache" is more like heartburn. The pluckiest song of the year award goes to Kathie Lee for "Make My Day," which is the epitome of Kathie Lee -- as smooth sailing as a ride on Carnival Cruises and as unstoppable as the icon herself.

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