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Dawn Robinson 

Dawn (Q)

The four women who made up En Vogue, the most influential female vocal group of the 1990s, may have taken turns singing lead, but it was clear from the outset that Dawn Robinson had the strongest pipes. In 1997, the Oakland-based vocalist was the first to leave. After an unhappy relationship with Raphael Saadiq and Ali Shaheed Muhammad in the short-lived supergroup Lucy Pearl, Robinson has reemerged with a vengeance on her first solo CD.

"Funky divas, I don't need ya/Lucy Pearl lost this girl . . . I run this," Robinson snarls on "You Will Never." The song closes the 12-track disc, the overall thrust of which serves as a bold declaration of independence, musically and emotionally. The singer had a hand in writing half the numbers and employed eight sets of producers, including Ivan Barias and Carvin Haggins of Jill Scott and Musiq Soulchild renown. The songs are strong and the grooves fresh, from the Peter Frampton-inspired acoustic guitar lines that underscore the motivational ballad "Get Up Again" to the brilliantly programmed Latin percussion that fuels "Hold On." But it's the richness of Robinson's octave-leaping voice and urgency of her delivery that make this long-overdue debut stand out.

More by Lee Hildebrand

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