Thursday, April 28, 2005

"Slow Down," Loose Ends (3/7/87)
Proving there was more to 'em than "Hangin' On A String" - but not by much - the UK trio struck again with what was basically "String"-lite. As is most of their ouevre. But with a blueprint like "String," that ouevre is more solid than you might expect. B+

"Have You Ever Loved Somebody," Freddie Jackson (2/21/87)
...and welcome to the wonderful world of record labels' release schedules, which caused Freddie to replace Melba at #1 twice in 3 months. [The charts also moved faster back then: in 1987 alone there were 32 singles which topped the R&B chart; last year, it was less than half that.] This song's opening harp strum brings to mind "Sukiyaki" (the good version, I mean) and then settles into another solid, classy FJ midtempo body-rocker. Pretty simply, either you get this or you don't, and for some reason - even though I'm a gay Caucasian guy raised on a northern Indiana farm, far out of the reach of R&B radio - I do. B+

"Falling," Melba Moore (2/14/87)
Well, she certainly made the most of that Freddie Jackson duet, didn't she? This midtempo track is better than that ballad, but not by so perceptibly much, beyond the fact that her voice is in full-bodied flower here. B-

Monday, April 25, 2005

"Candy," Cameo (1/31/87)
"Word Up" may funk - and it most certainly does - but this funks and swings. Unbreakable. A

"Stop to Love," Luther Vandross (1/17/87)
A long-awaited return to the top for Mr. Loverman himself - amazingly, it had been almost 5 1/2 years since his last visit to the summit, October '81's "Never Too Much." Amazingly, too, for the man considered by many the voice of romance in the decade (not to mention the soundtrack to a helluva lot of baby-making) (by which I mean it's all about the balladry, folks) that his second #1 was, like his first, an uptempo song. [It wasn't until late '88 that Luther'd get his first #1 ballad.] His mastery of love ballads is such that it's easy to forget how good he can be with uptempo material, and "Stop to Love" is a fine example of that, a solid, on-and-poppin' single. B+

"Control," Janet Jackson (1/10/87)
One of my favorite pieces of music trivia, ever: Janet had 5 number one R&B singles from Control; none of those hit #1 pop. The one which did, "When I Think of You," was the album's sole single not to hit the top of the R&B chart. Of course, that means we needn't bother ourselves with that song here (lovely, airy and poptastically buoyant, an A- in case you're wondering). Addressing "Control" is certainly no bother at all, as it kept up Janet's strike rate from her coming out party of an album. This is Jam & Lewis at their apex, making some of the hardest, driest dance music the pop world had ever seen - or has since. Again, however, what sells "Control" is Miss Jackson, the epitome of fierce ruling diva-in-training here. If that doesn't make you move a shoulder, a foot, your head (this is made for head-snapping!), you must be dead inside. A

"Girlfriend," Bobby Brown (12/27/86)
Not just miles away from the Bobby of Bobby-and-Whitney, this is miles away from even "My Prerogative" (which was 2 years away). On King of Stage, his first album upon the New Edition coop, Bobby kept up the N.E. vibe with a largely swoony, puppy love-soaked record, led by his first solo single. "Girlfriend" was a pop stiff, but did was it was supposed to do, ultimately, in setting him up as an R&B star capable of appeal beyond the Word Up! set. It's a bit sugary-sweet, but not saccharine, a ballad sold by Bobby's personality (which, as we know all too well anymore, he's got a surplus of). B+

"Love You Down," Ready For the World (12/13/86)
R&B listeners celebrated Christmas '86 with this painfully erotic ballad sitting atop the charts, one whose rep needs some rehab, as it seems to get a very unwarranted bad rap. Points for the guitar solo (all-too-rare in '80s R&B) and the spareness of the production here - if it weren't for the echo effects, there'd be precious little track at all. Lead singer Melvin Riley sounds romantic and nasty simultaneously, and if that's not a laudable skill I don't know what is. A generation of R&B vocalists to come was taking notes. A-

"Tasty Love," Freddie Jackson (11/15/86)
Freddie followed up his chart-topping assist to Melba Moore with his first solo #1 in just over a year, and third overall. "Tasty Love" continued his winning formula of an easy midtempo beat topped with his enthusiastic (yet still mannered) crooning. And he was just getting hotter. At this point, he was the new Luther - yeah, he was getting that big. B+

Thursday, April 21, 2005

"A Little Bit More," Melba Moore (with Freddie Jackson) (11/8/86)
Freddie sounds great, Melba sounds over-the-hill, this ballad sounds fairly flaccid. No surprises here, then. C+

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