June 19, 1989 12:00 PM

k.d. lang and the reclines

What a short, strange trip it has been for lang, the quirky Canadienne. Seems like only yesterday she was sitting on the fence as a performance artist, seeming to spoof country music and sporting the oddest hairdo this side of Lyle Lovett. With amazing celerity, this nettlesome outsider was embraced by the Nashville establishment, cutting a traditional album, Shadowland, produced by éminence grise Owen Bradley, and including harmonies with Loretta Lynn and Kitty Wells.

Lang’s voice is so powerful, so pure and so strong, it was probably only a matter of time before this prairie princess from Alberta was accepted by the country cabal. Still, it appeared to happen in a heck of a hurry. Absolute Torch and Twang has all the self-indulgent earmarks of someone who has been spending too much time reading her clippings. Lang trowels on the country histrionics on “Three Days,” for instance, and hams it up shamelessly on “Big-Boned Gal.” It’s not funny, just overdone. She blows you over like a nuclear-powered version of her idol, Patsy Cline.

The songs on which she doesn’t let it all hang out quite so egregiously, such as “Trail of Broken Hearts,” “It’s Me” (except for that final glass-shattering note) and “Wallflower Waltz,” are undeniable pleasures. Lang is one talented lady. If only she had taken the advice contained in one of the song titles on Absolute Torch and Twang…the one about “Pullin’ Back the Reins.” (Sire)

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