Lucy Pearl – Lucy Pearl (2000)

Lucy Pearl album cover
Lucy Pearl album cover

The late ’90s through the early Ohs was a great time for sophisticated R&B. It seems that as attention spans, IQs and SAT scores have fallen, so has interested in the kind of polished style conscious soul music that was being spearheaded by people like Erykah Badu, D’Angelo and Raphael Saadiq. Real musicians writing real songs with structure, melody and rhythm has gone by the wayside and in its place juvenile rap. Or at least it seems that way. People like Raphael Saadiq are still around and making music of course, but the audience around him has changed from the days of Why?.

With the demise of Tony! Toni! Tone! In 1997, it was expected that Raphael Saadiq would step out on his own. After all, he was the most influential creative power behind his old band and was beginning to make a name for himself as a producer. His first project was a surprise in that he was part of a super group that was to combine the neo soul talents of D’Angelo with the DJ skills of Ali Shaheed Muhammed (Q-Tip of Tribe Called Quest) and Saadiq himself.

When D’Angelo backed out at the last-minute (but somehow made it to the album cover), Dawn Robinson of En Vouge replaced him and no doubt changed the dynamic of the band. Saadiq’s vintage influences now had a female muse with a matured and slick production.

Despite the heavyweight talents involved, much of Lucy Pearl was no more distinctive than the better R&B at the time. The project did have a number of interesting songs. The dynamic created between Saadiq and Robinson created two hits “Dance Tonight” and the Chic/Brothers Johnson hybrid styling of “Don’t mess with My Man”.

Like a lot of sophisticated R&B, Lucy Pearl actually did better in overseas markets like England. In America Lucy Pearl’s influence was limited to BET, VH-1 and the R&B chart. While “Dance Tonight” broke the mode and got as far as the mainstream top 30. Other songs like “You” featuring Snoop Dog were more likely to be heard in the hood. Although it was never officially a single, it was proof that hip hop’s influence touched just about everything in R&B.

Some critics were disappointed by Lucy Pearl, despite the all-star talent behind it. The songs that were most likely to live up to that star potential were the ones that capitalized on Saadiq’s knack for making ‘60s era styled melodies. “Do It for the People” was nothing more than the title being chanted over and over, but had an infectious chorus that suggested something from the Civil Rights era. It was a delicious slice of what the album could have been at its best. Other songs like “Everybody” made use of Robinson’s vocal talent in such a way that complimented her (En Vouge) style as much as Saadiq’s emerging skills as a producer and musician suited him.

Lucy Pearl only lasted for one album and was potentially a launch pad for other R&B super group projects. Unfortunately the ideal of new collaborations of this type in R&B would lose favor, but the trade off was that we got a string of excellent solo albums from Raphael Saadiq instead.

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2 thoughts on “Lucy Pearl – Lucy Pearl (2000)

  1. I totally agree. Fond memories from 2000 of Lucy Pearl. R &B vocals groups are gone and with the internet music scenes are virtually extinct. I followed the neo soul scene closely. I actually saw Lucy Pearl twice, the most memorable was at House of Blues in LA, what a magical night. Our neighbor Cassie was best friends with Terry Ellis of EnVogue and we got to sit in VIP section where Magic Johnson & company were hanging out. Earlier that day Raphael S was with Magic Johnson at the Lakers playoff game when they beat Portland in game 7, we sweated out that game while at the House of Blues. So you can imagine the audience response when Raphael spoke of the game. We went nuts. Lucy Pearl was tight yet loose during the set, the vocal harmonies shimmered and the band sounded very solid. I was allowed to audiotape the show and I’m the only one you’ll find that has a complete recording of them anywhere. Listening to it now has made me reflect on the sweet optimism that was in that band’s music, remember it was before 9/11, before the wars, before social media would have everybody so wound up quickly turning on each other.
    I miss that band. I miss that time in America. I’ve recorded many of the great R & B acts of the 90s & early 2000s I enjoyed sharing the music with people so they can appreciate Lucy Pearl and others before that incredible music slips into history and gone forever.

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    1. That must have been a great show to see in person! There’s still some great R&B out there, you just have to look harder it seems.

      Like

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