Hot Tracks

Despite R&B and soul vocals reminiscent of Erykah Badu and the influences of beatmakers such as J Dilla and Flying Lotus thrown into the mix, New York neo-soul duo Lion Babe's debut effort is hit and miss.

The pair, comprising singer- songwriter Jillian Hervey (singer Vanessa Williams' daughter) and producer Lucas Goodman, went from being an underground act plying their trade in the Big Apple in 2011 to a major record label signing in 2013.

With Hervey's silky vocals, there are some prime cuts that hit the sweet spot between pop, soul and electronica, such as the entrancing Treat Me Like Fire with its African beats and the infinitely cool Jump Hi, which features Childish Gambino and expertly samples Nina Simone's Mr Bojangles.

Funnily enough, both tracks were off Lion Babe's 2014 self-titled, four-track EP.

In the time it took them to release their first full-length work - more than a year - there seems to have been a change in direction from the four original cuts that gave them the cool cred in the first place.

  • NEO SOUL

  • BEGIN

    Lion Babe

    Interscope

    3/5 stars

While the earlier tracks felt like genuine attempts at neo soul and funk, their slinkier newer material - such as the Pharrell Williams- produced Wonder Woman and the disco throwback Where Do We Go - are pop hit wannabes that don't quite hit the mark, their cool New York vibe lost in the aftermath of signing to one of the world's biggest labels, Interscope.

They should have stuck to what made them underground and exciting in the first place.

Anjali Raguraman


Both of Maurice Ravel's piano concertos were composed around the same period, between 1929 and 1931.

  • 20TH-CENTURY CLASSICS

  • RAVEL PIANO CONCERTOS

    Yuja Wang, Piano Tonhalle-Orchester Zurich/ Lionel Bringuier Deutsche

    Grammophon 479 4954

    4.5/ 5 stars

While these are vastly contrasting works, both are united by one common thread: the influence of new world jazz, particularly the use of syncopated rhythms and the blues idiom.

The G Major Concerto In Three Movements is characterised by unusual orchestration and the unlikely juxtaposition of Basque music and Mozartean simplicity.

The D Major Concerto In One Movement is the world's best-known work for the left hand alone.

Its central jazzy march episode has a similar insistent quality that can be found in Ravel's infamous Bolero and it culminates with a massive cadenza before the end.

Chinese phenomenon Yuja Wang performs with a lightness and mercurial quality that serve the music well, especially in the scintillating runs and volatile climaxes.

The woodwind solos by members of the Swiss orchestra in both concertos are excellent, which helps put these performances in the top drawer of CD recordings.

As a filler, Wang includes the solo-piano version by Ravel's teacher, Gabriel Faure, of the Ballade, a highly lyrical work that belongs to an earlier era, the more innocent Belle Epoque.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe