in New Releases
En Vogue Electric Cafe
By Hal Redmond Published April 16, 2018
Review by Andy Kellman Despite multiple lawsuits and fluctuating lineups during a 14-year between-albums gap -- a period during which the original quartet was temporarily intact -- En Vogue recorded Electric Café as the same trio that made Soul Flower. The creative rapport shared by Cindy Herron, Terry Ellis, and Rhona Bennett remains unchanged here on the sixth En Vogue full-length, a whimsical yet surprisingly steady collection of material that continuously switches eras and styles with positive energy beaming all the way through it. The six songs the singers co-wrote with their architects and career-long collaborators, Thomas McElroy and Denzil Foster, are the most adventurous. These include "Electric Café" itself, a strutting, coolly detached new wave-styled number that rhythmically resembles the Romantics more than the Kraftwerk song of the same title. The galloping "Life" incorporates some dubstep trickery, and "Love the Way" is high-gloss dance-pop only tenuously connected to disco, but they're both full songs at the core, with the second one highlighted by the women at their Emotions-like harmonizing best. They recall the Hutchinson sisters again on the Kid Monroe-produced soul-funk throwback "Have a Seat," featuring a compatible if inessential verse from Snoop Dogg. The other big-name collaborators are Ne-Yo, who co-writes the coasting bliss-out "Rocket," and Raphael Saadiq, who teamed with Taura Stinson to write "I'm Good," a loosely funky backdrop for primping before a celebratory night out. Going strictly by the unfussy ease with which this enjoyable album seems to have been knocked out, one wouldn't know that the group's status was ever in doubt.