Dance Tonight

Beautifully crafted but somewhat mature-assed.

A supergroup is a one-off collaboration with a co-dependency problem. There’s something inherently dubious about the mix’n’match celeb co-mingling idea. So can a trio of escapees from innovative early-’90s funk-hop bands hold on to their inspiration while jostling with their name mates? Scratch’n’smoulder supergroup [a]Lucy Pearl[/a] think so.

On the butt-naked beats wing they have Ali Shaheed Muhammad formerly of NY jazz-hop pioneers A Tribe Called Quest. On the Stevie Wonder vocalising wing there’s Raphael Saadiq, one-time contributor to jolly funksters Tony Toni Toni. In the heavenly harmonies centre there’s Dawn Robinson, the one who had a terminal tiff with her R&B gal-defining sisters in En Vogue.

in a style not heard since spangly ’80s Brit-funkers Imagination renounced the mirrorball.

For most of ‘Dance Tonight’ Saadiq plays Stevie Wonder to Dawn Robinson‘s olympic songbird diva exertions. It’s the kind of gilded vocal and hip-hop loops combination that might send an upmarket soul crowd into rapture, but for an album called ‘Dance Tonight’ it’s hardly a contender for the [I]Boogie Nights II [/I]soundtrack.

‘LaLa’ is pure PM Dawn for the under-fives. ‘Good Love’ has a Prince‘s-backing-singer kind of proficiency. Dawn‘s anti-star system rocker ‘Hollywood’ is almost Kravitz-esque. With a party-on title track that recommends avoiding both champagne and weed – “sure hope that you’re not toking” – and the jokey ‘Can’t Stand Your Mother’ railing against the oppression of not being able to wear your own cologne, it isn’t exactly taking a hardcore lyrical stance either.

So when Snoop Dogg and ex-Quest rapper Q-Tip turn up the heat for the laydeez-loving, West-Coast-poolside style ‘You’ it feels tokenistic. The old school, been there, done that, and still do it to perfection approach works in their favour, when they opt for a burst of disco fever – ‘Don’t Mess With My Man’ – but elsewhere, even nods in the direction of the Fugees don’t prevent ‘Dance Tonight’ from being superannuated rather than superfine. Beautifully crafted but somewhat mature-assed.