J.D. Considine
April 26, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

New Beginning (SWV)

Current Status
In Season

We gave it an B

Considering that SWV’s debut was a multiplatinum smash, why would the group declare its second album a New Beginning? But declare it they do, with Cheryl ”Coko” Gamble, Leanne ”Lelee” Lyons, and Tamara ”Taj” Johnson acting as if SWV had reinvented itself since the last album. How many of us even knew who ”Lelee,” ”Coko,” and ”Taj” were?

True, Gamble gives up her role as First Sister twice, handing the mike to Johnson for the ”Groove Me”-derived ”It’s All About U,” and letting Lyons take the lead on the hypnotic ”Don’t Waste Your Time.” But unless you pore over production credits, odds are you’ll never notice the switch.

Besides, who does what is hardly the point with soul harmony acts. What matters most is how the group comes across, and fortunately for SWV, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Forget who sang what — the real thrill here is how the hardcore beats of ”Whatcha Need” dissolve into the sultry soul of ”On and On,” or the way ”When This Feeling” folds a Beatlesque production into a classic soul groove. B

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