Miki Howard

Three Wishes

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When the 21st century arrived, Miki Howard wasn't as big or as visible as she had been in the '80s and early '90s. But the former Side Effect vocalist still had her hardcore followers, and those are the people she obviously had in mind when she recorded Three Wishes for the L.A.-based, Concord-distributed Peak label. Recorded in 2000 and released in 2001, this pleasant, if unremarkable, CD isn't a radical departure from Howard's earlier solo efforts. Instead of trying to make herself relevant to the hip-hop-minded R&B scene of the early '00s, Howard sticks to her guns and emphasizes adult-oriented quiet storm music. There are no duets with R. Kelly or Pink, no collaborations with Destiny's Child -- Howard knows that her audience is the Anita Baker/Luther Vandross/Regina Belle crowd, and she wisely caters to that audience. So she deserves credit for being true to herself even though most of the material she has to work with on this album isn't mind-blowing -- likable, yes, but not mind-blowing. As it turns out, the album's best track is jazz instead of R&B/pop; "Kiss of a Stranger," a moody, haunting jazz-noir offering that employs Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip and former Weather Report drummer Alphonse Mouzon, is the only thing on Three Wishes that is excellent instead of merely decent. Three Wishes won't go down in history as one of Howard's more essential releases, although her hardcore fans will probably want to hear it anyway.

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