Monday, November 2, 2009
MOTOWN FLASHBACK REVIEW: PHILLY QUARTET'S POPULAR AND SUCCESSFUL FOLLOW-UP
ORINGALLY RELEASED AUGUST 1994
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: BOYZIIMEN
PRODUCERS: BOYZ II MEN, WANYA MORRIS, SHAWN STOCKMAN, DALLAS AUSTIN, JIMMY JAM & TERRY LEWIS, TIM & BOB, THE CHARACTERS, TONY RICK & L.A. REID, BABYFACE.
When Philly quartet Boyz II Men dropped their classic album "II" in 1994, it became an istant classic debutting at # 1 on the Pop and R&B album charts and selling over 20 million copies, making it Motown Records largest selling album and one of largest selling follow ups in music history.
The award winning quartet had done well since they first released their classic album "Cooleyhighharmony" three years prior. They've won a large legion of fans with their barbershop style harmony, and classy image, while their top charting ballad "End of The Road" broke Elvis Presley's record by peaking at #1 on the Pop Charts for 13 weeks, and expectaions for Nathan and Wanya Morris, Michael Mc Cray and Shawn Stockman were high, and they didn't disappoint. In fact, teenagers, college students and adults flocked to get their tape when it was first release 15 years ago and many enjoyed playing it during the labor day weekend as well as rewarding the group with two 1 singles, and in honor of the album's 15th year anniversary, here is my review of one of my favorite classic albums, that showcased the group's writing and producing talents.
The album opens with their self-penned track "Thank You" which showcases their tradmark harmony being sung over the Slick Rick & Doug E. Fresh classic "LaDiDaDi"
Co-produced with Dallas Austin, the song also features bass singer Mc Cray singing some lines in a smooth bass that adds a spiritual vibe to this uplifting classic, that contains lyrics thanking their loved ones and fans for showing them love and support during the good and bad times. This is followed by "All Around The World" my all-time favorite song by the award winning group, who's known for showing their fans appreciation and love.
What makes this song hot are the drums, percussion, beats, French introduction and outro by Tamara Spinner, Mc Cray's spoken seagments, and call and response between him and the group, Nathan's smooth riff when he introduces Wanya and the lyrics that features all the Cities and states and their love for performing for the fans without any complaints.
Here we go on another tour
On the road again
Come and take a flight with
Boyz II Men
All around the world
Back around the world
And we're coming to your town
All we do
All we do
Is for you
Cause you've always been there
and we appreciation you.
"U Know" is a cool mid-tempo song that has a James Bondish theme vibe courtest of the bass and horn riffs, and great rich harmony, also featured on the smooth flowing "Vibin'" which they co-wrote and produced with Tim and Bob. The classic has lyrics about people having a great time dancing and listening to good music, something that's needed instead of people hating and throwing shade at each other.
The Jazzy-flavored Tony Rich penned "I Sit Away" showcases the quartet's ability to phrase, ad-lib and riff. It also contains Jazzy and classy piano riffs also featured on "Jezzebel" which features the group's performing scatting-type harmonizing, and a skit that features Wanya and Stockman wanting to take the B train to the studio, while Nate and Michael decides to the studio. This song should have been released as a single.
Their self-produced song "Khalil" still forces me to hold back tears. This is a beautiful song written in memory of their late road manager and mentor Khalil Roundtree, who was killed in a Chicago hotel elevator while the group was touring with M.C. Hammer in 1992. What gives this song the spirutal vibe is the piano performance by Bob Robinson, who performance a beautiful classy solo on the ballad "Trying Times" which was co-wrtten with group member Wanya who showcases his soulful vocal talents. The classic top charting "I'll Make Love To You" is still a favorite among concert goers, and hopeless romantics (this nerd included) who loves to listen to timeless love songs. This song has timeless tasteful lyrics written by Babyface, soulful phrasing by Shawn and Wanya and strong harmony by the group. A great song for Gay and hetero couples to play while making love along with "50 Candles" an underated classic co-written by Stockman that could have also been a huge hit had it been released as a single. What gives the song sex appeal are the strings, percussion, raindrops, the lyrics about making love under candlights, the group's vocal performance while they're making the uh-ah sound during the second verse.
Take them off
Throw them down
Come here and let 'em down
The outside world is of no concern
Just let our bodies and the candles in the room burn
With feverish passion uncontained
Mike's spoken part
Come and get this
Waited all my life for your touch and soft kiss
And life will never be the same, while ya moan and groan my name
Holding your body like a plastic moaning
Your soul I'll be controlling
"On Bended Knee" is another favorite that will have listeners putting this song on repeat and rewind. Written and produced by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, this ballad features touching lyrics about sharing admitting one's mistakes and begging and pleading for their loved ones to return home to make the relationship group. It also features the group singing the chorus in falsetto that gives the song the heartbreak feeling that helped make this song become their third # 1 Pop hit.
The CD closes with an accepella version of The Beatles' classic "Yesterday," which further demonstrates their trademark harmony and capability to sing other genres of music besides R&B, and make them they're own.
I really enjoyed re-listening to Boyz II Men's classic CD. It brought back memories of how music is supposed to make you feel, and though it would have been nice had some of the songs they group had co-wrote and produced became bigger hits, this classic showed that they were more than just singers, which is why this album is the classic that it is today and they showed how to make a follow up album
This review is dedicated to the memories of Khalil Roundtree, former Motown Records President Jheryl Busby and to the memory of Bondy's Records a record store that used to sell tapes and CD's a day (and sometimes) a week before the actual release date
UKNOWN FACTS ABOUT II
1. "Thank You" was originally scheduled to be the first single to be released from the album. On Behind The Music, the group had stated that they wanted an up-tempo song to be released to show their capability of singing other forms of music besides ballads, but Jheryl Busby, then President of Motown Records decided to release the Babyface penned and produced ballad "I'll Make Love To You" as the album's lead single, and this made the group upset because they had shot a video for the song. They got over their anger when the song topped the Pop charts for 14 weeks. "Thank You" was later released as the third single and it became a top 20 Pop hit.
2. While the group was working on the album, they reached out to Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis to collaborate, and at first Jam felt that the group didn't need their assitance beng tha they had success with "End of The Road." When the group was in the producers hometown of Minnieapolis for a basketball game, they paid an unexpected visit to their Flyte Tyme recording studios and asked them to work with them on their album. In an interview with the Billboard Books of Number Ones, Jam said how the group told him how they loved the work they did on their idols New Edition's classic album "Heartbreak" and how they took the song "Boys To Men" for the name of their group. They also asked them if they would produce a song for them what would it be. The Grammy Award winning duo came up with the title after looking through a book of titles they keep in their studio.
3. When Motown decided to release "On Bended Knee" as the next single, producer Jimmy Jam wanted Motown to wait another week so the group could break their own record. By that time the group's single "I'll Make Love To You" had been number one for 14 weeks and Jam, who is good friends with Babyface, wanted the group to set another record. Motown chosed to release the single, and it became another historic moment for the group; it replaced "I'll Make Love To You" and topped the Pop charts for 6 weeks.
4. While the group was working on the album, Michael Jackson had came to the studio to work with Jam and Lewis, and when The King of Pop (who was a huge fan of the quartet)learned they were there, he asked them to provide backing vocals on his song HIStory.