EX-"DREAMGIRL" Jennifer Holliday easily dominated that show, then went on to keep the national tour of "Sing Mahalia, Sing" afloat solely on her titanic presence. Now Holliday's shooting for pop star status.
For "Say You Love Me," her second solo set, the singer has collected 10 love songs and almost as many top producers, including Michael Jackson, Arthur Baker and Tommy LiPuma. The record has been unfairly overlooked, perhaps because the material is not as good as she deserves -- but it would be hard for any pop tune to live up to that mighty Voice.
All the massed choirs, intricate editing gimmicks and high-tech sheen would swamp a lesser singer (and that's often the point of such mega-production). But Holliday slices through the lush sonic foliage, and her muscular voice, with its gospel-trained phrasing and joyous ad-libbed whoops and swoops, elbows aside the mostly forgettable words.
Jackson wrote "You're The One" for Holliday, and the Gloved One sinks the already insipid song with his syrupy 101 Strings production. Though "What Kind of Love Is This" is an unabashed rhythmic and melodic steal from Chaka Khan's "I Feel For You," Holliday has so much fun cutting loose she makes the song new again. And though "No Frills Love" and "He's a Pretender" are lots of energetic fun, the album's gems are the slow ones: the simmering r&b of "Hard Times for Lovers"; the title track; and Duke Ellington's jazz-gospel "Come Sunday," which Holliday turns into a model of delicate strength.
These successes seem to indicate Holliday might do well to reverse the ratio of dance numbers to scorching torchers next time out.
JENNIFER HOLLIDAY -- "Say You Love Me" (Geffen GHS 24073); appearing with Bill Withers Saturday at 8 and 11:30 at the Warner Theater.