CDs By En Vogue, Lucy Pearl Do Battle

Two Marvin Gaye re-issues also in stores this week.

If R&B fans were an electorate, this week's release of

albums by En

Vogue and

COLOR="#003163">Lucy Pearl — which

features ex-En Vogue singer

COLOR="#003163">Dawn Robinson

would be a soul Super Tuesday.

After all, En Vogue dominated the airwaves long before

being supplanted by

COLOR="#003163">TLC and

COLOR="#003163">Destiny's Child, and Lucy

Pearl is getting more hype than Hillary Rodham Clinton's run

for the Senate these days.

But En Vogue's Maxine

Jones displayed statesmanlike

sportsmanship in welcoming her former bandmate's album

into the race.

"I think it's great, because it's like more hype," Jones said

about perceived competition between the albums by her

group and Robinson's. "It gives people something to talk

about on both sides. I just hope we both do really well."

The two groups are running on different musical platforms.

Lucy Pearl — who include

COLOR="#003163">Tony Toni Toné's

Raphael

Saadiq and

COLOR="#003163">Tribe Called Quest's

Ali Shaheed

Muhammad, in addition to Robinson —

mix hip-hop, R&B and rock on their self-titled debut. En

Vogue's Masterpiece Theater is an aggressively

pop-soul album that draws as much on classical music as it

does on funk.

Lucy Pearl includes the single "Dance Tonight"

(

HREF="http://media.addict.com/music/Lucy_Pearl/Dance_To

night.ram">RealAudio excerpt), a slinky call to the

club floor that appeared on the "Love and Basketball"

soundtrack. But the album also features the playful '70s

soul groove "LaLa," the Tony Toni Toné-esque

"Can't Stand Your Mother" and the nasty hard-rocker

"Hollywood."

" 'Hollywood' surprised all of us," Robinson said. "I mean,

that's from Ali, who's got a hip-hop background, and here he

comes with this vibrant track that's got a rock edge."

En Vogue, of course, flirted with rock on their 1992 hit "Free

Your Mind" (

HREF="http://www.sonicnet.com/artists/aiclip.cgi?track=%7E

xx-

XXXXXX%2F0217410_0104_00_0002.ra&submit=PLAY">R

ealAudio excerpt), but you won't find any distorted

guitars on Masterpiece Theater, the group's second

album as a trio since Robinson left in 1997.

The first single, "Riddle," features clean, funky guitar

accents and plucked strings behind a sing-along chorus

that exposes a cheating lover. "Latin Soul" is,

unsurprisingly, a salsa-tinged funk workout, while "Beat of

Love" mixes eerie strings with cool-jazz trombones and

tubas.

Then there's a four-song suite that draws its melodies and

chord progressions from well-known classical compositions.

"Love You Crazy" (

HREF="http://media.addict.com/music/En_Vogue/Love_You

_Crazy.ram">RealAudio excerpt) uses

Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," while "Sad

but True" is a lovelorn ballad over the piano arpeggios from

Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata."

Also on tap this week are two vault collections from

Marvin Gaye.

Every Great Motown Hit might not be as

comprehensive as its title suggests — it lacks "Ain't

That Peculiar" and "It Takes Two," his duet with

COLOR="#003163">Kim Weston — but it

includes classics such as "I Heard it Through the

Grapevine" and "What's Going On."

The Final Concert is a recording of Gaye's last live

performance, taped less than a year before his death in

April 1984. In addition to many of his Motown greats, it

includes a version of his 1982 hit "Sexual Healing."