THE ALBUM -- Angela Bofill, "Angel of the Night," Arista (GRP 5501). THE SHOW -- At Carter Barron Amphitheatre, Sunday at 8.
On her debut album, Angela Bofill proved her extraordinary range, from throbbing top-40 to All Jarreau-style scat songs, from emotional ballads to Latin-flavored rockers. Now comes the follow-up LP, "Angel of the Night," which tones down those bright musical colors, soft-pedaling Bofill's Cuban roots in an assimilated jazz-pop mix. The result is a pleasing, languorous sound -- though it falls short of funkier expectations.
The 26-year-old child of the South Bronx is still drawing ovations in concert. Unfortunately, her songwriting talent hasn't quite caught up with her obvious vocal gifts. She wrote four of the eight songs on the new album: a soulful ballad about her nephew, "Rainbow Child," a silk-and-satin torch song called "I Try," a sensual "The Feelin's Love," and "The Voyage," a mystical excursion heavy on congas with free-floating melody and Afro-Cuban jazz stylings. But one or two originals would have sufficed.
As a rule, her love songs are gentle, vulnerable though not especially incisive. Her melodies are usually far superior to the lyrics. (It's a tedious "Voyage": "Here we are together we're on a ship/Moving toward new galaxies of existence.") Throughout "Angel of the Night," the words aren't worthy of Bofill's dreamy voice.
Perhaps her best showcases are the mesmerizing jazz-tinted pieces where wordless syllables take over from simple-minded lyrics. On the lilting title track, sweet-sounding background vocals join the chorus celebrating "a guardian of love" as Bofill breaks into Spanish and then indulges in scat singing at the end. The cut treads a thin line between disco beats and jazzy rhythms.
With a varied and even more raucous selection of numbers, Bofill's next album could be a delight. Regardless of this LP's concessions to pop pablum and the star's own compositions, Angela Bofill is a superb vocalist. A polished performer with smooth stage movements to match her smoky voice, she's bound to entrance her outdoor audience this weekend.