ALL OF the artists below achieved some national success in the '60s and '70s, but changes in black popular music have rendered their soul-styled sounds less fashionable. Not surprisingly, three of them have found refuge at Malaco Records, the last company devoted to recording down-home R&B and soul for a mostly southern audience.
DENISE LaSALLE -- "Love Talkin'oiced soul singer unleashes a number of raunchy raps here that outline a simple strategy for women's sexual equality -- don't ask for it, take it. In "Love Is a Five Letter Word" and "Get What You Can Get," LaSalle belts out her feelings on macho men and philanderers in language that would send Tipper Gore running for the censor's pen. LaSalle is just being real and honest, though, and the muscular push and pull of the Memphis soul arrangements here are equally convincing.
BENNY LATIMORE -- "Latimore -- Good Time Man" (Malaco 7423). LaSalle is also a super songwriter, and some of the best numbers on this collection of sensual ballads were penned by her. Not unlike a funky version of Barry White, Latimore has a warm bedroom voice that rumbles and aches its way through 10 tales of being done wrong, but enjoying it nonetheless. Latimore's own rippling keyboard play helps create some sleek backgrounds that are every bit as suggestive as such songs as "She Didn't Love Me Like a Lady." This is strictly late-night music.
BOBBY BLAND -- "Members Only" (Malaco 7429). If LaSalle and Latimore struggle on behalf of the viewpoints of their respective sexes, Bobby Bland still strikes emotional chords so deep that sex is irrelevant. After floundering on MCA, Bland returns here to the strong gospel- blues feeling of his classic work, and the album achieves true comeback status. His delicate phrasing is as emotive as ever, and the material, especially "Sweet Woman's Love," is worthy of the legend.
TYRONE DAVIS -- "Sexy Thing" (Prelude 14115/0898). This Detroit soul man has been having a hard time finding his place in contemporary pop, and the tepid synthesizer arrangements here aren't the solution. The ho-hum material is mostly composed of the kind of romantic ballads that are Davis' forte. However, the record's only real saving grace is the man's rich crooning, still touched by more than a little passion and grit.
BLAND, LaSALLE, LATIMORE & DAVIS -- appear Friday, along with Millie Jackson and Billy Paul, at the Convention Center.