No one can deny the strength and appeal of Angela Bofill's voice -- a dreamy, expansive soprano capable of soaring 21/2 octaves with ease. Always, the trick has been to wed that voice to material worthy of it. This hasn't been easy, given Bofill's fondness for her own unremarkable songs and the florid arrangements that have all too often burdened her recordings. But her latest album, "Too Tough," is a step in the right direction.
Half of the album -- the better half -- was produced by Narada Michael Walden, who again stresses Bofill's commercial potential but with more taste and restraint than usual. He's responsible for the sassy pop-funk beat that propels the title track and for the somewhat unlikely teaming of Bofill and Boz Scaggs, which results in a convincing and surprisingly straightforward version of "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing."
What's more, Walden equips Bofill with a couple of ballads that have more going for them than just the perky optimism that frequently characterizes her own songs.
Bofill dominates the second half -- as producer, singer and songwriter -- with mixed results. Several songs suffer from a glossy superficiality, a deficiency that shortchanges the singer's obvious abilities to express emotion. But other songs, such as "Accept Me (I'm Not a Girl Anymore)" are more substantial, and ultimately Bofill emerges from "Too Tough" with a stronger and more balanced sound. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM ANGELA BOFILL -- Too Tough (Arista AL 9616). THE SHOW ANGELA BOFILL, Saturday at 8 at the Warner.