January 25, 1988 12:00 PM

Julie Andrews

Andrews’ first album in years is a curious patchwork outing, sometimes soothing and stately, just as often exasperating. The contemporary, small ensemble arrangements of producer Bob Florence are effective, except when he cheesily tries to make a synthesizer stand in for a horn section. (Next time, Bobby, spring for the brass.) The only other problem with Florence’s hip orchestrations is that apparently he neglected to discuss them with Andrews, who sings as if she has the London Symphony behind her, presenting everything with a formal enunciation that would make any nanny proud. That delivery works on What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life and a very down-tempoed Tea for Two. It’s disconcerting on Cole Porter’s So in Love or a stick-in-the-quicksand rendition of Nobody Does It Better by Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager. Andrews’ finest moments come when she is humming, as she does to open and close the Johnny Mercer-Harold Arlen tune Come Rain or Come Shine. Then there’s a sensuousness to her tone that unfurls like smoke wafting over mirrors. Not that anything is wrong with her voice. Throughout the album, it’s sweet and clear, often frosted with an appreciable sparkle. The problem is that stiff upper lip. (USA)

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