THE ALBUM -- Nicolette Larson's "Radioland," Warner BSK 3502.
Too bad about Nicolette Larson. She's adorable, has a fine set of pipes, and after a spectacular stint as backup vocalist for rock's executive-level practitioners, she was peter-principled into a solo career that has done nothing but draw attention to her transparency. "Radioland," her latest effort, is strictly Frederick's of Hollywood.
Not that she can't spin a nice tune; does it all the time. But taken as a whole, her work has amounted to an endless succession of "nice tunes."
Larson can steal the show from such accomplished performers as Neil Young and Christopher Cross, throwing her soul into secondary harmonies. Given her own forum, she's like a trail horse that slogs the beaten path even when nobody's in the saddle.
There's no shortage of studio, compositional or backup muscle on a Nicolette Larson album. This one contains songs by the venerable Allen Toussaint and the late Lowell George. Ted Templeman produced, Linda Ronstadt (natch) sang harmonies ("Ooo-Eee") and a host of excellent sessionmen comprised the instrumental lineup.
The problem is Larson's inability to transcend the "female singer" image that has been the creative bugaboo of luminaries far less talented than she is, chief among them Ronstadt and Karla Bonoff. It's an image foisted on them by the industry and the public but perpetuated by themselves, and it requires that they expend so much energy being vulnerable-yet-sexy, pithy-yet-noncontroversial, creative-yet-not-innovative, etc., that the actual music they produce has all the gusto of wilted lettuce.
There are tentative efforts to escape this regimen on "Radioland," including the title cut and Toussaints's "Tears, Tears and More Tears." But one gets the feeling that a bunch of Female Singers -- i.e., Ronstadt, Bonoff, Wendy Waldman, Maria Muldaur and Larson -- keep trading around their music the way coeds swap wardrobes, oblivious to the fact that they all look pretty much the same in them.
Of course, this stuff is terrific AM fodder. What I can't believe is that there's yet to be a TV sitcom centering on Female Singers. What a terrific way to showcase all that great vocal talent, clothes sense, good looks, "fun" and lots and lots of nice tunes!
But since I thought of it first, I'm putting together a package before someone beats me to the bucks. It's mine. Don't attempt to telephone me on this matter.