With Elvis, a Little's Better Than Nothing

*** 1/2 Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes featuring Teddy Pendergrass, "If You Don't Know Me by Now," Columbia Legacy. In the late '70s and early '80s, Pendergrass ruled the R&B; roost with his potent ballads. But those records pale next to his earlier work with the Melvin group, which gave us some of the best R&B; of that decade.

* 1/2 Aretha Franklin, "Unforgettable: A Tribute to Dinah Washington," Columbia Legacy. Before her breakthrough as a gospel-styled R&B; singer on Atlantic Records, Franklin made some bad pop albums for Columbia, including this 1964 tribute. On torchy ballads like "This Bitter Earth," which Washington crooned so sleekly, Franklin is like a fish out of water.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (e ssential ).

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