April 27, 1992 12:00 PM

En Vogue

This California quartet broke out big with their 1990 platinum debut, Born to Sing, and its infectious single, “Hold On.” But other female R&B vocal groups such as Seduction also crowded the field. (Remember the record-company golden rule: If one group hits, let’s find a dozen more like them.) While there’s no denying En Vogue’s slight edge in talent (they copped a Grammy nomination), the groups all became a little interchangeable.

On their sophomore effort, the frisky foursome—Terry Ellis, Maxine Jones, Cindy Herron and Dawn Robinson—dip into a grab bag of styles to distance themselves from the competition. They give their fans what they paid for on the opener, “This Is Your Life,” where their strong, modulated harmonies make them sound like streetwise Andrews Sisters. The first single, “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It),” should shimmy up the charts nicely.

But they grind gears shifting to the Pointer Sisters-meet-Van Halen rocker “Free Your Mind,” and lose traction on the tepid reggae of “Desire.” The women fare better on a soulful, partially a cappella version of Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday.”

Guided by the producing and songwriting team of Thomas McElroy and Denzil Foster, En Vogue succeeds best at light danceable funk embroidered with soaring, swooping vocals. Maybe the album title promises a bit more than what’s delivered. But Spunky Hip-Hop Gals Who Can Sing Their Fannies Off would have been just too long, we guess. (East/West)

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