Lucy Pearl Lucy Pearl

Anticipation has been running high for this collaboration between former members of Tony! Toni! Tone!, En Vogue and A Tribe Called Quest, and those seeking a respite from assembly line pap won't be disappointed. Opening with a smart rearrangement of Tony! Toni!, Tone's "Ask of You," which slyly coheres musical allusions from the previous groups of Raphael Saadiq, Dawn Robinson and Ali Shaheed Mohammed, the natural logic of the alliance of this unit is confirmed. Unashamedly rooted in irresistibly catchy melodies, Lucy Pearl's attention to song arrangement and soulful instrumentation is what brings substance to the project's subtle retro sheen. The chemistry between Dawn Robinson's vocal muscle, Ali Shaheed Mohammed's beats and vinyl rubs, and Saadiq's well-rounded musicianship often yields exquisite results. "Everyday" teams Saadiq and Robinson in striking harmony, and the chunky mid-tempo "Without You," with Saadiq singing lead, grabs the ears instantly, but the debut consistently yields exquisite results. Well-intentioned missteps like Saadiq's detached Prince-like delivery on "Remember The Time" and Robinson's turn on "Hollywood" point to the disc's only fault - it's occasional detrimental self-consciousness, which presumably restricts many of the songs from becoming the extended jams they practically beg to become. (EMI)