By Stephanie Zacharek
Updated November 01, 1991 at 05:00 AM EST
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Swept

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If any record could be improved by a cheesy dance track or two, Swept is it: Singer-songwriter Julia Fordham’s third release comes dangerously close to drowning in its own tastefulness. She showed similar restraint on her last record, Porcelain, but there managed to temper it with dashes of wry wit. Here Fordham’s subtle, earthy charm is practically buried. On songs like ”Rainbow Heart” and ”Patches of Happiness,” she fights against the manufactured melodrama of the arrangements, cluttered with squiggly saxophones and swelling synthesizer rushes. The songs are like the watercolor paintings you see in doctor’s offices, so anxious not to offend that their beauty is ineffectual. That’s a shame, because Fordham’s oddly masculine voice is just lovely — it has the warmth of an oaky wine. Fortunately, she does have a few sterling moments: On the searing ”Shame,” her voice rings with the purity of a choirboy, and she gives the ballad ”Betrayed” a chilling cast. But Swept is ultimately too pretty for its own good. C+

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Swept

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