[a]Lucy Pearl[/a] show all the signs of being both a supergroup and a super group.
Meet Dawn Robinson, Ali Shaheed Muhammed and Raphael Saadiq, former members of En Vogue, A Tribe Called Quest and Tony! Toni! Toni! respectively. While the condition of their bank accounts doubtless varies after differing years of success and failure, fame and obscurity, in their prime, all three ranked among the big-hitters of R&B/hip-hop.
When they decided the next move was to hook up and, for reasons not well explained, work under the moniker Lucy Pearl, talk of an R&B supergroup was never going to be far away. Then they went on record as saying it was a “Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young thing”. Which pretty much cleared the issue up.
So not only do Lucy Pearl have their eponymous debut album to draw tunes from, but an almost bewilderingly expansive shared back catalogue. En Vogue’s ‘Hold On’ duly shows it hasn’t lost an inch of its magnitude, as Dawn sings it to an audience who respond with uncontained glee. A Tribe Called Quest‘s ‘Bonita Applebum’, meanwhile, struggles for relevance as Ali clonks away on bongos and decks. Then it’s time to nip back into the slick balladry of Tony! Toni! Toni!‘s ‘Let Me Know’, with Raphael still crooning as crisply as Michael Jackson, followed, ridiculously, by an appalling cover of ‘Jailhouse Rock’.
Weather that mixed bag of nostalgia, however, and Lucy Pearl prove themselves effortless providers of party fun and diva power. ‘Dance Tonight’ and ‘Don’t Mess With My Man’ are stuffed to the gills with disco licks and Prince-style purple funkiness. Nostalgia again, then; roughly as contemporary as Chopper bikes and leg-warmers, but delivered with impeccable talent. Lucy Pearl aren’t, in short, what you’d describe as edgy modern R&B. With honeyed vocals, silky melodies, warm bass and trad beats, they’re a mile away from the punk funk and jagged rhythms favoured by many, post Missy and Timbaland. Indeed, the only time they rank as alarming is when Raphael, dressed in a cross between a string vest and a bat cape, assumes a facial expression as if he’s having a poo when playing the guitar.
But once again, you can’t question their vintage, purist R&B slant for too long. The genial surge of other new tracks like ‘Good Love’ and ‘La La’ puts paid to that. Charming, sweet and magnetic, Lucy Pearl show all the signs of being both a supergroup and a super group.