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JOSIE COTTON (Buy CDs by this artist)
Convertible Music (Elektra) 1982
From the Hip (Elektra) 1984
Frightened by Nightingales (Roxco) 1994

Josie Cotton's debut album, with the exception of one dumbly offensive number ("Johnny, Are You Queer?"), is really good '60s-derived '80s California pop, powered by a subtly solid band and spiced up with exactly enough atmospheric organ. Cotton has a strong, expressive voice that suits the material (mostly hers, some written by producers Bobby and Larson Paine) just fine, especially on the bouncy "He Could Be the One" and a cover of the 1962 Exciters' hit, "Tell Him."

Cotton offers another sophisticated come-hither look on the cover of From the Hip; the music is pretty much a repeat engagement of the first LP as well, although not as creatively successful. "Jimmy Loves Maryann" leads off the record and is its best number; elsewhere, intrusive rock moves muddy the pop clarity, although not enough to be fatal. Cotton has a great voice, but she's totally subservient to production and songwriting; here, with fewer of her own songs and a baring of increased commercial intentions, she gets a second-rate assist.

[Ira Robbins]