Category Archives: Johnny Gill

Johnny Gill – Chemistry

Johnny Gill
Chemistry
April 22, 1985
Cotillon Records/ Atlantic RecordsWMG
065/100
Johnny Gill - Chemistry
1. Half Crazy // 2. Can’t Wait Til Tomorrow // 3. Don’t Take Away My Pride // 4. One Small Light // 5. The Way That You Love Me // 6. Because Of You // 7. Chemistry // 8. I Found Love

It can’t be stressed enough in reviewing a Johnny Gill album. The voice you hear on the record does not fit the little boy on the cover. Even though he was eighteen by the time Chemistry dropped he looked fifteen and had the voice of a thirty-plus year old. A very exceptional thirty-plus year old even. Gill’s husky, masculine baritone could give the likes of Luther Vandross and Teddy Pendergrass a run for their money in its sheer power, seductiveness and sultriness.

Unfortunately for Gill up until the 1988 New Edition album Heart Break, on which he replaced Bobby Brown, he had never gotten the material to unlock his potential. His epynomous Freddie Perren-helmed debut had been boring as hell, as had Cotillon Records’ attempt to sell the boy to starlet Stacey Lattisaw’s audience: the far from perfect Perfect Combination. Producers Freddie Perren and Naranda Michael Walden couldn’t come up with material that was either memorable or did more for Gill than showcase his excellent voice.

The Linda Creed-helmed Chemistry isn’t quite the instafix to Johnny’s problems, it shares the same questionable ’80s production values and dime-a-dozen R&B songwriting that evaporates from memory as soon as the record stops playing. But moreso than either of Gill’s two prior albums it’s rather entertaining when it is on.

Half Crazy and Because of You are decent piano ballads. They may be corny but they are corny by design and bear their queso with pride.
Can’t Wait ’til TomorrowOne Small Light and The Way That You Love Me are the sort of uptempo ’80s post-disco soul songs that brings to mind Lionel Richie’s Running With the Night and summon nighttime joyrides.
Don’t Take Away My Pride and I Found Love take a cue from Freddie Jackson and JG does this type of song as well as the man himself (take that how you will).
Chemistry makes it’s titular subject a metaphore for sexy business and doesn’t quite manage to have fun with it, but doesn’t outright suck and its sticking to a subject makes one wonder what the hell happened to songwriting as of late.

At only eight tracks Chemistry doesn’t overstay its welcome, which is never a bad thing, and although it’s not a very substantial album it is, very much like, and certainly no worse than Whitney Houston’s debut (it’s a shame Cotillon didn’t put more effort in pimping it to her fanbase), a pleasantry (albeit a carbon dated one), and sometimes that is all music needs to be.

Best tracks
Half Crazy
Can’t Wait ’til Tomorrow
Don’t Take Aaway My Pride
Because of You

Recommendations
Chemistry is not for everyone. It’s some seriously cheesy, slight ’80s R&B/Soul, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But for what it is it’s pretty good. So white, middle aged housewives easy listening/ adult contemporary audiences, if you come across this one for a reasonable price, go for it.

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Johnny Gill & Stacey Lattisaw – Perfect Combination

Johnny Gill & Stacey Lattisaw
Perfect Combination
February 27, 1984
Cotillon Records/ Atlantic RecordsWMG
055/100
Johnny Gill & Stacey Lattisaw - Perfect Combination
1. Block Party // 2. Fun And Games // 3. Falling In Love Again // 4. 50/50 Love // 5. Perfect Combination // 6. HeartBreak Look // 7. Baby It’s You // 8. Come Out of the Shadows

Johnny Gill’s debut album hadn’t sold very well or provided the charts with any hits (the internet provides no clues of the opposite being true), so the people of Cotillon/ Atlantic records decided to put him in the studio with proven success and labelmate Stacey Lattisaw (Wikipedia says they were childhood friends as well, believe what you will) to pimp him to her fanbase and to create a cute teeny 1980s update of a Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell duet album (although those two things are actually one and the same thing.)

That this album isn’t  as horrible as that description makes it sound is largely to thank the vocalists for, Johnny with his singing that sounded like it belonged to a man twice his age, and miss Lattisaw sounding capable and confident beyond her years as well, but to a lesser extent (they were both seventeen when they dropped this).

The sound is fine for those who enjoy this particular brand of queso (not me.). The midtempo cuts sound like store brand imitations of SOLAR Records svengali Leon Sylvers III’s post-disco electro-pop jams. (Shalamar’s A Night To Remember, Lakeside’s Fantastic Voyage, Dynasty’s Midas Touch et al.) and the ballads sound like they are rejects from the An Officer and a Gentleman soundtrack.
That’s not to say anything sounds horrible, in fact the songwriting itself puts most of today’s R&B music to shame in it’s ability to choose a subject/ concept and stick to it, and this Naranda Michael Walden guy seems at least adequate in putting together a record, but that is not to say you should give a fuck.

That the best thing on here is a cover of an old Shirelles song, previously covered by the Beatles, written by Burt Bacharach is telling about the songwriting. Kinda how Johnny’s debut‘s best song was a cover of an old Sam & Dave song written by Isaac Hayes.

Best tracks
Perfect Combination
Baby It’s You

Recommendations
Don’t bother.


Johnny Gill – Johnny Gill

Johnny Gill
Johnny Gill
January 16, 1983
Cotillon Records/ Atlantic Records/ WMG
055/100
Johnny Gill - Johnny Gill (1)
1. Super Love // 2. Thank You // 3. Show Her Love // 4. Guilty // 5. When Something Is Wrong With My Baby // 6. Every Radio // 7. I’m Sorry // 8. I Love Making Music // 9. You // 10.  Half Steppin’

If you can spot the crime against style on this album cover please leave a comment, hint: it isn’t the Jheri curl.

Johnny Gill the singer was always something special, even though Johnny Gill the album wasn’t, well not his 1983 debut anyway. His 1990 album, confusingly also titled Johnny Gill is actually quite good.

What’s most striking about this album is how little the teenager on the album cover resembles the man one would imagine the voice you hear on record to belong to, indeed the powerful soul vocals sounds really mature. And not in a preteen Michael Jackson way either, Michael just sounded extraordinairily skilled and experienced for someone his age, Gill actually sounds like a thirty year old.

Not that he sounds gimmicky, au contraire, he’s one of the top R&B vocalists of his era when it’s reach and power that is concerned, not unlike Whitney Houston, with whom he would in the future affiliate through New Edition.

Also not unlike Houston’s Gill’s debut album suffers from a serious case of professionally made but generic sounding ’80s pop/ R&B material the boy had to sing his way through. And not in a trashy fun sense the way his future group New Edition’s debut Candy Girl was.

Props to Gill for making the ride as enjoyable as it actually is. Shame on Cotillon for not getting him the musical collaborators he deserved. Not that they didn’t get Johnny a prefessional producer, Freddie Perren is a former member of Motown Record’s production company The Corporation, which produced hit singles for the Likes of the Jackson 5, Gloria Gaynour, the Sylvers and many other Motown Greats, but he brings none of that heat here.

That is; He doesn’t land a classic record but that doesn’t mean he’s entirely useless, Super Love and Guilty are passable post-disco stabs at electro funk. Show Her Love is an okay drum-less R&B ballad in the vein of MJ’s She’s Out of My Life. These songs certainly aren’t bad and should satisfy fans of early-to-mid ’80s R&B.

Best of all is Johnny’s cover of Sam & Dave’s When Something is Wrong With My Baby, which is actually a ’60s soul song, and showcases Johnny’s range really well.

I’m Sorry and Every Radio are some cornball bullshit, though. I Love Makin’ Music and Half Steppin’ fall flat in their attempts at funky. And You wants to be classic Motown-ish slow jam, but is too flaccid to compete.

So, one good track, four okay ones and five terrible ones. That leaves this one at barely passable. Luckily Johnny got another shot at recording an album, because the boy certainly would eventually turn out to have good music in him, not now though, since this was not only a critical failiure but also a commercial one.

Best track
When Something is Wrong With My Baby

Recommendations
Nothing on here warrants a purchase.