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Sound bites

By Times staff, correspondent

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 23, 2000

LUCY PEARL, LUCY PEARL (POOKIE/BEYOND) -- Made up of ex-members of A Tribe Called Quest, En Vogue and Tony! Toni! Tone!, Lucy Pearl is something of an R&B super group, kinda like an urban Cream.

The trio's self-titled debut is a smoothalicious ride of Chic-y guitar from Toni's Raphael Saadiq, the sharp, bright, soulful crooning of Dawn Robinson, and some provocative cut and paste courtesy of former Tribe DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad. Hip hop, funk and soul blend seamlessly on this perfect summer album. Drive down the freeway with it, or primp to it before you hit the club. This is mood music, baby, and it just flows.

More refreshing, Lucy Pearl has the sound of freedom; clearly, it's a forum for these artists to further tap the sources their former high-profile acts suppressed. Robinson's singing is looser, delicate, personal. She's flying like a little bird.

Listen to the new money magic of Dance Tonight with its confidently catty Let's purchase two new Bentleys/I know that it looks trendy -- and hear it all come together.

Lucy Pearl is more than a vanity project, more than hip hoppers making cameos on each other's albums. These three have known each other for years. So why did it take them so long to hook up musically? Grade: B+ -GINA VIVINETTO, Times pop music critic

TRISHA YEARWOOD, REAL LIVE WOMAN (MCA) -- Man, it's great listening to a CD that's not laden with synthesizers and singers with curlicue vocal trickery at the end of each song.

Without knowing it, I've been craving the deep, strong voice of someone who knows how to tackle a song and doesn't let the song tackle her.

The Mariah Careys, Christina Aguileras and Britney Spearses of the world have made me tired and cranky. I really miss Linda Ronstadt.

I'll be okay, however, because with her latest effort, Real Live Woman, Trisha Yearwood is on her way to being the next Linda Ronstadt. To solidify that move, Yearwood even sings a song co-written by the dark-haired Arizona crooner.

Back in her day, there was a place in pop music for voices like Ronstadt's: clear and mighty and able to hold one note all day long without the tinkering of recording studio equipment.

Yearwood is like that, too, but only the country music genre has room for that kind of singer these days. In country music, Yearwood can push her pipes to their limit or rein them in and cuddle.

Until now, Yearwood's voice, not the songs, have always been her best asset. With Real Live Woman the songs are up to the task, too.

Particularly powerful is the Kim Richey/Mary Chapin Carpenter penned Where Are You Now. And the title track, Real Live Woman, is not only a good anthem but also the antithesis of Tammy Wynette's Stand By Your Man (we've been needing that for a while).

And what country album would be complete without the formula song? Yearwood's got that, too. "You made me love you so bad . . . too bad you're no good," she sings on Too Bad You're No Good. Since there's only one country cliche song on Real Live Woman, it comes off as humorous. Grade: A -PAMELA DAVIS, Times staff writer

VERUCA SALT/RESOLVER (Beyond) -- Even when it was at full strength, Veruca Salt needed more seasoning.

Cute? Unquestionably. Personable? Sure. And it offered more than enough catchy hooks to keep everybody happy. But all that style didn't entirely compensate for the lack of depth beneath the sorority-girls-gone-bad personae of frontwomen Louise Post and Nina Gordon.

Gordon and the rest of the band skipped out a couple of years ago, leaving Post to pick up the pieces. As breakups go, this wasn't exactly Lennon-McCartney. But, judging from the title and contents of the reconstituted Veruca Salt's first effort, Post thinks otherwise. For listeners who care deeply about the intricacies of the Post-Gordon feud, these rants will be fraught with import. For the rest of us, they mostly sound silly.

The promo material says Post spent the last 18 months "discover(ing) Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine." Better late than never, I guess. But it also sounds as if she discovered Courtney Love during that time, which, depending on your opinion of that overbearing poseuse, is not necessarily a good thing. Post's voice alternates between whispery and whiny, and Brian Liesegang's one-trick-pony production manipulates the dynamics with a heavy hand.

Resolver has none of the wit and panache of old Veruca Salt. Maybe the departed bandmates took those qualities with them. Or maybe Post spent too much time pouting in her room with too few CDs. She'll make better music once she's back in a better mood. Grade: C -ROBERT FRIEDMAN, Times staff writer

DON HENLEY, INSIDE JOB (WARNER BROS.) -- The first new music from Don Henley since 1989 quickly puts to rest any fears that the aging desperado might have lost some of his sanctimony in the intervening years. It's solidly intact, as song titles such as Goodbye to a River suggest.

Unfortunately, it's Henley's songwriting skill that has been misplaced somewhere along the way.

Lionel Ritchie would be embarrassed to be associated with anything as trite and treacly as some of the Henley paeans to his wife on Inside Job. And the blissful love songs sound even tinnier when they segue straight into sour harangues about greedy pollutors and spoiled yuppies. Make up your mind, Mr. Henley: Are you blissed or pissed?

Even those who've always found Henley too smug for their tastes should acknowledge the strength of his songbook. He was the most substantial Eagle and, until now, the most successful ex-Eagle. Henley solo efforts such as Boys of Summer and Dirty Laundry can hold their own with anything else heard on pop radio in the past two decades.

But a dearth of memorable melodies and trenchant turns of phrase is discernible here. A boatload of special studio guests doesn't manage to perk up these proceedings.

And by the way, all of Henley's environmental preaching on Inside Job might have been easier to take without all the videocassettes, 5-by-7 glossies and (recycled) reams of promo material his publicity machine sent out in an effort to prop up this turkey. Grade: C- -ROBERT FRIEDMAN, Times staff writer

RAH DIGGA, DIRTY HARRIET -- Rap is at such a creative peak right now that I suppose I'm a little spoiled, because despite Rah Digga's obvious talent, Dirty Harriet just doesn't move me. Digga's rugged, forceful flow is impressive, and she doesn't lack for humor; this is a Flipmode production, after all. Digga raps assertively over spotty production, and sometimes she carries it.

With an assist from the seemingly fail-safe DJ Premiere, Digga shows a knack for potent narrative in the tragic details of Lessons of Today. But as with mentor Busta Rhymes, theme is a problem. Her references and turns of phrase are generally clever but rarely jaw-dropping, so the boasts and shout-outs (and the voice) get a little tiring, and the strong, independent woman asserting her hip-hop prerogatives isn't quite the tonic it was when MC Lyte was telling philandering Sam to hit the road. So for the most part, "impressive" is the best this gets. Grade: B- -ALAN RITTNER, Times staff writer

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