Great R&B vocal quintets used to be discovered on street corners and, after a hit or two, returned there. Today, you halfway suspect Riff was signed because their record label calculated that the group’s five fine singers could eventually roll out as many stellar solo careers as the guys in New Edition. Though Riff lacks a great bass or baritone to give them adult weight, there’s some wonderful, intricate harmony here, particularly on gospel-derived songs like ”I Can’t Believe We Just Met” and so-sappy-they’re-great pop ballads like ”Little Girls.” But hacklike songs and frequently derivative arrangements dominate Riff, and if this is the best their record company can do, Riff may never realize their potential. The whole project is too corporate, right down to the dizzying fine print of the liner notes that credit everyone and everything, except who sings lead on each song. That renders anonymous even the magnificently ethereal Stylistics-like lead on ”Baby It’s Wonderful.” Here’s hoping Riff stays together long enough to call their own shots and make more personal records. B

  • Music