In 1999 Tony! Toni! Toné! cofounder Raphael Saadiq tapped former En Voguer Dawn Robinson and A Tribe Called Quest's beatmeister Ali Shaheed Muhammad to form the neosoul collective Lucy Pearl. With these credentials you'd expect something life-changing -- the possibilities from this talent pool seem endless.
Lucy Pearl's debut is an eclectic, funky, pop-soul work. Productionwise, the record is tight -- Saadiq's multi-instrumental arrangements, Muhammad's intricate beats, and Robinson's silky voice mesh well together. Highlights include the funky party anthem, "Dance Tonight," replete with lush strings and grooving bass lines. The groove continues with the Chic-inspired "Don't Mess With My Man," and there's a hint of Sly and the Family Stone in the funk-rock fusion of "Hollywood." Robinson's sexy, rock-hard vocals add an extra punch to the song, which, essentially, is a trite screed about the evils of the music biz. That said, Lucy Pearl is in dire need of a songwriter. There's too much emphasis on production and not enough on writing. The result: tired lines like "I said I'm not trippin'/'Cause you were out slippin'/And now I'm out dippin'/Don't knock on my door," on "Trippin'." Even more disappointing is the West Coast¯flavored "You," featuring weak, uninspired raps by Snoop Dogg and Q-Tip, Ali's partner in rhyme from A Tribe Called Quest.
Despite its cookie-cutter melodies and forgettable lyrics, Lucy Pearl does an admirable job preserving the grit and spirit of classic soul music. But if they're not careful, they may meet the same fate as Blind Faith, the Honeydrippers, and the Traveling Wilburys -- supergroups that broke up before realizing the promise of their pedigrees. Hopefully we'll get the chance to discover that there's more to Lucy Pearl than rock-star makeovers (check the album cover) and all-star flash.
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