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FIRST,DON Johnson lost his memory in 'Miami Vice' and thought he was a drug dealer," said the cynical-sounding AM disc jockey. "Now he thinks he's a singer."

Go ahead and laugh, deejays of the world. Johnson and Barbra Streisand have a fast-rising hit on their hands.

Actually, the lovebirds' (or is it former lovebirds now?) duet is the best moment on Till I Loved You (Columbia OC-40880), Streisand's latest collection of string-drenched ballads.

Johnson is no Mario Lanza, mind you, but he's no Kris Kristofferson either. His 1986 "Heartbeat" album was vastly underrated, and he more than holds his own as a duet partner on the title cut here.

Let's face it -- even if he couldn't sing a note, who is going to tell Barbra Streisand in 1988 that she can't bring a sex-symbol boyfriend into the studio to record with her? The woman is such an astonishing song stylist that she could probably make a hit with Pee Wee Herman. She even made frog-throated Neil Diamond sound good a decade ago on "You Don't Bring Me Flowers."

When Streisand made her first record in 1963, she was a struggling young Broadway actress trying to make a name for herself. Twenty-five years later, the most successful producers and songwriters in the world are willing to turn cartwheels to get her to record with them.

Example: when she decided to record a new album of show tunes a couple of years back, songwriting superstar Stephen Sondheim changed the lyrics of his classic "Send In The Clowns" to make the song more suitable for her.

But that creates a problem for Streisand, too. When she goes into the studio, her fans have every right to expect that she'll come out with a masterpiece, or at least an excellent piece of work. And since she rarely appears in concerts, she is almost totally dependent on her records and films to reach her public.

"Till I Loved You" has some very pretty moments, but it's no masterpiece, despite the efforts of Streisand and songwriters like Michel Legrand, Maury Yeston, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Burt Bacharach and Carol Bayer Sager. Excitement is what is lacking on this lushly-produced album.

Nowhere is the problem more evident than on the opening cut, "The Places You Find Love." The song was produced by Quincy Jones, the genius behind Michael Jackson's best work. The chorus is an absolute killer -- Dionne Warwick, Luther Vandross, James Ingram, Jennifer Holliday and Siedeh Garret. But the chorus never really lets loose. The approach is too restrained. Jones falls far short of the sexy sound he appears to be looking for.

And as beautiful as Streisand's voice is throughout the album, there are no songs that really pull the heartstrings in the manner she is capable of. "Two People," co-written by Barbra with the Bergmans, almost gets there. But not quite.

"Maybe I'll make it better next time," she sings on "One More Time Around." Maybe she will. She certainly has the talent.

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