Barbara Pennington

Out of the Darkest Night

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"If you believe in yourself, people will open their arms to you." That's the catchall line in the opening -- and title track -- to Chicago-born Pennington's 1985 sophomore outing, and it sets the positive musical and lyrical energy for the subsequent material here. A tasty assortment of nifty mid-tempo dance/soul numbers, the set offers particularly strong numbers in the gleeful "Way Down Deep in My Soul," whose production slightly recalls Quincy Jones' 1982 sessions with Donna Summer, and the motivational, jazzy "Raise the Curtain." The earnest ballad "Tearstains" also leaves a lasting impression, while the Hi-NRG entry "Vertigo" is dull and unconvincing. Vocally, Pennington's clear and strong yet sultry style makes each entry user-friendly and enticing. On more than a few occasions, her tone bears remarkable resemblance to cohort Evelyn Thomas (both worked almost exclusively with producer Ian Levine). Hot Productions' 1996 CD reissue includes two bonus tracks: "All American Boy," an enhancement, and "Vanity," a throwaway number.

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