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Neneh Cherry - Man
(Hut Recordings/Virgin) import

While the catch phrase "Women In Rock" exploded all over the U.S. media in 1997, Neneh Cherry, one of the movement's should-be leaders, has basically been forgotten. What's the deal, and why hasn't Virgin had the good sense to release her newest effort stateside?
Who knows. There doesn't seem to be any reason good enough to justify why Man, completed in 1996, has not seen a domestic release.

The fact that this is only her third album in a nine-year major-label career—she's got a life, dig?—makes it that much more difficult to fathom. And while there's no classic single here a la "Buffalo Stance," and this album is not in the same league as her challenging previous effort Homebrew, it's a dreamy yet tough crop of 11 songs, none of which is weak enough to be termed "bad." Man's main themes, much like Homebrew's, dwell on hope, education, family, love, and sex—the safe kind and the dirty kind. Ever a mirror and not a follower of what sounds hip, in '92 Cherry worked with Michael Stipe and jazz-influenced rapper Guru; on the new album's "Together Now," she collaborates with Tricky. There's also "7 Seconds," her duet with Youssou N'Dour previously released on his The Guide (Wommatt) album a few years back, and her bold, stripped-down piano take on Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man" which surfaced on a tribute album. Considering the company she keeps and the material she writes and chooses, it's not surprising Cherry specializes in soundscapes. But this ain't Enya territory. Neneh's turf is a funky, groove-laden world in which clean-sounding drum machines, Abbey Road-ish guitar riffs, and gut-wrenching but never overwrought soul singing all get together for a support group, air their gripes, propose solutions, and then fuck.

Homebrew was purely classic. That Man falls slightly short of that should not cause it to be dismissed. It is a major work by a major artist. In the '90s, the true women's revolution may indeed be televised, but if you want to buy it in record stores you'll have to pay import prices.