Annie Lennox: Bare

The tune to The Tourists' 1979 single "So Good To Be Back Home Again," written by bandleader Peet Coombes, is catchy enough. But that's not what sets the track apart from the countless hits and semi-hits that flooded the British market in the wake of punk. It's the voice of singer and future Eurythmics co-star Annie Lennox that, though buried beneath guitars and synthesizers, has little trouble coming to the fore. Lennox has one of those voices that make the old she-could-sing-the-phonebook cliché almost seem like a decent idea, though that can be a problem, too. Lennox probably could make the phonebook compelling, but that doesn't mean she should try. Her voice can initially mask less-than-stellar material, and it does just that on Bare, her first collection of self-penned solo work since 1992's appropriately named Diva. (A covers album and a Eurythmics reunion came between.) A song of heartbreak and beauty, "A Thousand Beautiful Things" opens the proceedings with the kind of fierce, tender singing that has only gotten richer since "Sweet Dreams" was recorded two decades ago. Vocally, Lennox adheres to that gold standard throughout Bare, but the melodies aren't always there, and the lyrics periodically delve into head-scratchery: "Where is my comfort zone?" Lennox asks at one point, perhaps expecting Vanessa Williams to answer. Still, the standouts almost redeem the dull stretches. "Honestly" answers the opener with another swooning ballad, while "Bitter Pill" raises the tempo with the kind of insistent synth-line that the Eurythmics used to conquer the world. Even when her material disappoints her, Lennox's voice makes Bare's faults a little too easy to forgive.

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