April 13, 1990 at 04:00 AM EDT

Black and Blue has the most electrifying opener. Three powerhouse performers — Ruth Brown, Linda Hopkins, and Carrie Smith — wail ”I’m a Woman” to plucked-bass accompaniment. Then a band of expert jazzmen strikes up a joyous, blaring arrangement of ”Royal Garden Blues.” The show is an anthology of classic blues, jazz, and pop numbers from W.C. Handy to Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, and Harold Arlen. The cast members all perform at full force, but about halfway through a first hearing the record wears out its welcome by its insistent, every-number-a-showstopper overemphasis. Early on, Brown half- talks, half-sings a very funny song, ”If I Can’t Sell It, I’ll Keep Sittin’ on It.” Later, she gives us a ”Body and Soul” so agonizingly distended it seems to last a week. The clack of tap shoes in one num-ber reminds us of the show’s dancing, the one vital component the album can’t convey. I doubt that I’ll replay the record much. C+

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