"Get Nervous" is the most impressive album of Pat Benatar's short career, and a vast improvement over last year's self-conscious "Precious Time." The rough-hewn singer, whose classical training is evident in her control of lyrics and intonation, has edged into the '80s by dropping the redundant second guitar of Scott St. Clair for the keyboard/synth coloring of newcomer Charlie Giordano. Add some empathetic production from Peter Coleman and hubby-guitarist Neil Geraldo; confront the singer with some challenging songs and tensile arrangements; and Benatar responds by rocking hard on the edge of paranoid tension and anxious desire. She's still a bit too heavy on the these-boots-are-going-to-walk-all- over-you routine (nastiest and most metallic on the clich,e-ridden "The Victim"), but there's also a lightening up to go along with the tightening up.
Benatar's voice, which has tended to shrink in previous productions, is not only on top this time, but seems fuller, stronger, a maturation not unlike Linda Ronstadt's. Benatar is a belter, which elevates her Spector-ish reading of D.L. Byron's "Shadows of the Night" and "A Little Too Late" to Patti Smith-as-girl group exuberance. Giordano's keyboard textures, used most effectively on "Looking for a Stranger," "Silent Partner" and the title cut open up the sound and propel where guitars used to pound. Geraldo's guitar work is excellent throughout. "Get Nervous," the smart look in hard rock, benefits from a strong woman's intuitive aggression.
y Frank Marino, the Canadian guitar stud who finally dropped the Mahogany Rush name when it became evident that everyone was there for his six-string pyrotechnics, seems hopelessly rooted in the past. He's come some way since being heralded as a Jimi Hendrix clone, but he seems to have barely escaped the last decade: Much of "Juggernaut" sounds like Cream-meets-the Moody Blues with Jimmy Page sitting in on the Allman Brothers' songbook. This is not to deny Marino's skills as a guitarist, but ferocity or fluidity aren't groundbreaking or invention. Marino calls his publishing company Par Excellence. This one's strictly par. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUMS PAT BENATAR -- Get Nervous (Chrysalis CHR1396). FRANK MARINO -- Juggernaut (Columbia FG39023). THE SHOWS PAT BENATAR, Monday at 8 at Capital Centre. FRANK MARINO, Monday and Tuesday at 9 at the Wax Museum.