Sue Ann Carwell

Painkiller

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    6
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Concentrating on bass-driven R&B/funk grooves, Carwell's third album (her first two were released under the name Sue Ann) effectively showcases her as a sassy soul diva, despite the occasional burden of a few musical inconsistencies. While it expands on the new-school sounds of 1988's Blue Velvet, it also falls victim to formula. The album's opener, "Sex or Love," is a mean, midtempo romp with honest and gritty vocals and jazzy, quasi-piano fills. With a more instant hook but thinner arrangement, the uptempo "7 Days, 7 Nights" succumbs to gimmicky, radio-ready production to some degree. Subsequent dance-driven numbers like the title track "P.M.S.," and "Johnnie" boast snagging vocal riffs and arrangements with surprisingly authentic elements (P-Funk horns, organ). She mixes ingredients from the Minneapolis R&B scene she was a part of in the early '80s with a '90s sensibility. Her vocal elasticity is further proven in the sultry swayer "For Love & Money" and the inspirational ballad "The Dark Side of Love," although it isn't quite enough to substantiate the dry "Some Love" and meandering pace of "Here 4 U." Overall, Painkiller is an impressive offering, especially given that it was released at a time when new-jack and hip-hop predominated the R&B scene. Consequently, however, some of the fun and innocent charm of Blue Velvet is lost.

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