Supergroups are almost unheard of in R&B, so when former members of big-name acts combine forces, it's news. And when that group consists of innovative performers such as Raphael Saadiq (formerly of the vocal group Tony Toni Toné), Dawn Robinson (late of En Vogue) and A Tribe Called Quest ex-member Ali Shaheed Muhammad, a fan's expectations run sky-high. Perhaps that's why Lucy Pearl seems to fall short of the mark.
With Saadiq and Robinson handling the vocals, the songs on this self-titled debut—most of them written by Saadiq—have a breezy, soulful lilt, and the interplay of male and female voices is delicious. Yet some of the tracks don't amount to much more than extended riffs or elaborate vamps. And while the tunes have a finger-popping appeal, there is also a sense of incompleteness.
When the trio hits its mark, as on the aching "Without You" and the laid-back "Remember the Times," the music soars with an offhand cool that takes you back to the heyday of classic 1970s soul and R&B. In a genre that is now so dominated by formula, Lucy Pearl should be praised for attempting to paint outside the lines and to breathe new conviction into their work. Maybe next time they'll come up with songs to match their talents and their ambition.