Karyn White doesn’t sell a song; instead she delivers it all prettily wrapped in bows and ribbons in Ritual of Love. With an engaging but not particularly distinctive voice, she repeatedly uses a little-girl catch in the throat, turning this effect into a tic. Her soprano, reminiscent of Diana Ross’, glides slickly from pop-dance perfection (”Romantic”) to schmaltzy tear-jerking (”Tears of Joy”); you get very little sense of White’s own personality. She sounds uneasy with the sexual, nasty-girl swagger of ”Walkin’ the Dog,” and on ”The Way I Feel About You” she comes off like a Janet Jackson soundalike. She does shine on the slower, less tricked-up songs. Her plaintive refrain on ”One Heart” — sweetly repeating ”I love you” — rescues it from sounding like the musical equivalent of a greeting card, and she turns up the power with the proto-feminist triumph of ”Do Unto Me.” Moments like these, when you feel like White really means it, are a treasure, but they don’t come often enough. B-
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