Even the Tin Man couldn't fail to feel something for Nona Hendryx. While she keeps the pale male rock-crit hierarchy in a perpetual snit with her sexual politics and her resistance to attack, she keeps her rainbow audiences rocking the rafters with her aggressive, driving, two-fisted music.
Hendryx has a new label (RCA), a new backing band (Material) and a new album bearing the typically straightforward title, "Nona." But her sound is still pretty much what you'd expect: lean and mean and locomotive.
Side A sports the flashier tunes, starting with "B-Boys," a smart, I've-got-your- number comedown on male domination. "Living on the Border" is a steamy declaration of independence that resembles last year's blood-boiling "Do What You Wanna Do" in both style and content. And "Keep It Confidential" is the standout cut on the album, heartfelt and sexy. "Design for Living" features an epic cast of female popsters including Gina Schock, Tina Weymouth, Nancy Wilson (the Heart sister, not the other one) and Laurie Anderson, among others. It looks great on paper, but doesn't quite live up to the billing on vinyl.
Side B is less successful, although Hendryx's sheer momentum keeps it from flagging. "Steady Action" plays gentle hide- and-seek with the downbeat, giving the melody a nice rum-and-Coke flavor, while the lyrics do a fair job of summing up the basic Hendryx philosophy: "It's only action that matters -- steady action." The record closes out with "Dummy Up," the album's one Hendryx-only composition, a tautly constructed, if unspectacular, treatise on the rigors of love.
Taken as a whole, "Nona" is a startlingly honest collection that makes you get up and dance first, sit down and think later. Next time around, Hendryx might consider letting someone else take over the production chores, the better to free her up to work her magic on skin and bones and heart.
NONA HENDRYX -- "Nona" (RCA AFL14565). Opening for Ashford and Simpson, Friday at 8 and 11:30 at DAR Constitution Hall.