*** EN VOGUE "Funky Divas" EastWest America
Somebody in the En Vogue camp is keenly aware of soul music's roots--either the captivating quartet itself or Thomas McElroy and Denzil Foster, the writers-producers behind both the group's 1991 million-selling debut album "Born to Sing" and this follow-up. Clearly groomed to offer a '90s slant to the Supremes' classy crossover image, En Vogue also lifts ideas from James Brown and Aretha Franklin to create a sharper, more streetwise package.
"My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)" owes a debt to the rugged, rhythmic edge of Brown's "The Payback" to underline its sassy message. En Vogue's versions of "Hooked on Your Love" and "Giving Him Something He Can Feel" should please fans born the same year Franklin recorded these gritty torchers back in 1976, but they don't match her industrial-strength passion and soul.
That isn't to say that En Vogue isn't a gifted unit. If they err at all, it's in their efforts to prove that they really can sing --they sometimes overdo it, sending notes flying wildly all over the map. But they're also capable of pleasant surprises, as on "Free Your Mind," which confronts the prejudice even a funky diva faces, be it from store clerks--"I can't look without being watched!"--or those who don't understand that while they "might date another race or color, that doesn't mean I don't like my strong black brothers."
Try to imagine the Supremes coming up with a line like that.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four (excellent).