Saturday, March 19, 2005

"Shake You Down," Gregory Abbott (10/25/86)
6 charttoppers from the first half of '86 did the duty on Billboard's Hot 100, too; only one in the year's second half did, and bizarrely, it was this slice of lite-R&B balladry. Abbott was apparently a former Wall Streeter, and frankly, sounds like it on a song that's perfectly pleasant but leaves no aftertaste. I have an unexplainable love for it, but that doesn't mean even I think it's great. B

"Word Up," Cameo (10/4/86)
The men were certainly repping in the autumn of '86, weren't they? And really, who does have the time for "psychological romance"? [Who knows what that means? And if it matters?] Cameo had been repping ATL funk for nigh on a decade by the time of their bustin'-out breakthrough with this worldwide smash. This is no lifetime achievement, though: funking hard like a 1986 Soul Train dancer's hips, "Word Up" stands up to their best work. And introduced the globe to Larry Blackmon's codpiece. A-

"The Rain," Oran "Juice" Jones (9/20/86)
Def Jam's first charttopper, and a sneaky retronuevo one at that. No, it's not quiet storm-y, but it's certainly old/new, putting a contempo spin on an army of '60s (and earlier) blues records, especially, with spoken interludes which made the records something special. "Now close ya mouth, 'cause you cold busted!" is one of the all-time great ripostes in music, but that's not all. The "Juice"'s entire speech is perfection, an unbeatable ice-cold kiss-off and superb contrast to his upper-register, sweet singing vocals. Had he been 20 years younger in the '80s, Marvin Gaye might've made a record like this. A-

"(Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop) Goes My Mind," Levert (9/13/86)
When making R&B stars, lineage helps, as proven by Levert: lead singer Gerald's father is no less than Eddie Levert of the O'Jays. You can hear that in his rich, deep, espresso voice, put to good use here on Levert's very first R&B #1, like most of theirs a midtempo groover about luuuurve. This one, however, pops (I'm sorry) with magic in a way that few of their subsequent hits do. A-

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