August 08, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
We gave it a C

Wynonna’s first album in three years, What the World Needs Now Is Love, is full — excruciatingly full, really — of inspirational lyrics, few of them particularly personal or revealing, with maybe one exception. When she sings ”I will be bold/Follow my faith/To a higher road,” you have to wonder if another of those F’s should’ve been tellingly capitalized. She’s hired one of Faith Hill’s primary producers, Dann Huff, and if you’re looking for an album of AC/R&B tunes that sound like leftovers from the ”Cry” demo stack, you’ve come to the right place.

Judd’s fiery voice is undiminished, and she comes by her vocal grit more naturally than Hill. But Faith would at least know better than to commit to material as pointlessly derivative as the title track, which is unfortunately not the Bacharach/David composition; or the second number, ”Heaven Help Me,” which is not Sting’s ”If I Ever Lose My Faith in You,” though its writers have embarrassingly all but traced that song’s template. (”I Want to Know What Love Is” and ”Burnin’ Love” are the actual oldies, to no better effect.) Sass and sap have become inexorably linked in her choice of the most generically empowering songs possible. If you want to be reminded of why you fell in love with Wynonna in the first place, hold out for ”Flies on the Butter (You Can’t Go Home Again),” a reunion with Mama, or ”Rescue Me,” a sprightly new hymn. Meanwhile, it’s her song sense that needs the rescuing.

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