Dream Juice

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In the early 1990s, England's R&B scene provided a healthy, risk-taking alternative to the type of generic, contrived urban contemporary efforts that often came from the U.S. In terms of creativity, artists like Soul II Soul, the Chimes, Neneh Cherry and Lisa Stansfield were certainly giving American R&B artists a run for their money. One British R&B singer associated with Jazzie B's Soul II Soul entourage was Efua Baker, who simply went by Efua and showed some promise on her Dream Juice session. This CD stood little chance of being played by American urban contemporary radio -- it's too arty, too esoteric and certainly too chance-taking. Efua provides an evocative, atmospheric style of alternative R&B/pop that draws on hip-hop as well as jazz, and her album is generally appealing, if a bit uneven and sometimes overly self-indulgent. One thing it lacks is a strong single. As ambitious as Soul II Soul was, Jazzie B made sure that singles like "Keep on Movin'" and "Back to Life" had a certain immediacy, but "immediacy" isn't a word that anyone will use in connection with Dream Juice, which requires several listens before you can start to really absorb it. Enjoyable but imperfect, Dream Juice made one hope that in the future, Efua would streamline her approach and come up with some accessible, hook-minded singles.

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