February 06, 1989 12:00 PM

Lena Horne

Nobody would pretend that this is Lena at her peak. For that you’d have to go back to her sultry single Love Me a Little Little with the Artie Shaw band in 1941, her version of the title song in the 1943 film Stormy Weather, her Watch What Happens with Gabor Szabo in 1970 or even her one-woman show in 1981. Still, merely good Lena Home is spectacular stuff by most criteria. At 71, she makes up for what she has lost in range with a depth of expression that surpasses even her own rarely equaled standards. For example, the words “a precious few” from the Kurt Weill-Maxwell Anderson standard September Song could hardly carry any more longing or defiance or appreciation than she gives them on this record. She and producers Ettore Stratta and Sherman Sneed have combined old and new songs that seem totally appropriate, such as the rarely heard Cole Porter tune Ours; a delicate and wistful new composition, I Wish I’d Met You, by Richard Rodney Bennett, Johnny Mandel and Frank Underwood; and the stubbornly optimistic Harold Arlen-Ted Koehler collaboration Sing My Heart. Sammy Davis Jr. adds a warm duet vocal on I Wish I’d Met You, and Joe Williams drops in for I Won’t Leave You Again. They seem to be paying the lady their respects, as well we all should. (Three Cherries)

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