Four years after their last true full-length (the nearly Internet-only Christmas album from 2002 barely counts), En Vogue return as independent women, not only in record label but also in attitude. Soul Flower benefits from more of an eye on the groove than on the charts and better than ever tricks from longtime producers Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy. Within the first five seconds of the album listeners get a slinky shuffle of a beat, '40s-styled harmonies, and a confident, soulful lead vocal. A ton of winning ideas follow, and Foster and McElroy seem to be having as much fun as ever. The 2004 version of En Vogue -- original members Terry Ellis and Cindy Herron with newish member Rhona Bennett -- harmonize as well as the original four, adding a mature attitude that's still sexy and strong. "All You See" is Sex in the City in a song, with the women delivering their "can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em" lyrics in elegant fashion. The plea for men to stop acting like boys on the slinky "Dissed Him" could make the lowliest player straighten up and "Nearly Lost" is a wonderful bit of light chamber funk. This isn't a return to form -- there's nothing reaching for the brassy heights of "Free Your Mind" and nothing as gimmicky as "My Lovin'" -- but Soul Flower finds the band revitalized, learned, and with a whole new set of opportunities in front of them.
Soul Flower Review
by David Jeffries