Category Archives: 1985

New Edition – All For Love

New Edition
All For Love
November 8, 1985

MCA RecordsUMG
070/100
New Edition - All For Love
1. Count Me Out // 2. A Little Bit of Love (Is All It Takes) // 3. Sweet Thing // 4. With You All the Way // 5. Let’s Be Friends // 6. Kickback // 7. Tonight’s Your Night // 8. Whispers In the Bed // 9. Who Do We Trust // 10. School // 11. All For Love

By the time All For Love dropped New Edition was on a roll. Their indie label debut Candy Girl had put the five boys from Boston firmly on the map in ’83. The following year major label MCA had bought them out of their recording contract leaving them heavily in debt to their new employers, but their self-titled sophomore album was pretty successful and went a long way in helping to recoup MCA’s investment and solving NE’s debt. It should therefor come as no surprise that their third album serves up more of the stuff that made their previous disc go double platinum. Sunny R&B-pop with absolute alpha male and Michael Jackson-emulator extraordinaire Ralph Tresvant on leads and the other four guys mostly in backup capacity, snagging up the occasional lead vocal when Ralph was out of the booth taking a piss or something. And all of the guys were apparently content with that.

Well, all but oneAll For Love would be the last New Edition album released before Bobby Brown decided to start a solo-career, ostensibly because according to him All For Love sounds like he might as well had already left before they started recording it. (He’s not entirely right, he pops up on Count Me OutKickback and School and Who Do We Trust is mostly his show, but over the course of this album he doesn’t get as much time on leads as Ralph does, so he was right about that.) But we’ll get to Bob’s solo adventures soon enough.

This album is an enjoyable enough sequel to New Edition. It’s a bit harder, crisper and more electro funkafied and danceable than what they did the last time around. But that’s speaking relatively only to their last album, off course. You can still just picture your grandmother walking into the room while All For Love is on, and commenting on N.E. being “Such nice boys”. There’s no real edge of any sort. Which was supposedly the other reason for Bobby to get himself kicked out leave. He didn’t agree with the artistic direction they were headed in. (Looks like Robbie Williams took notice.) But for this album’s intents and purposes that may not be such a bad thing. The hooks are still as catchy as ever and Ralph is still as good an MJ update as he was the last time around.

Count Me Out has Ralph explaining why he can’t hang with the gang because he has to do stuff with his lady while Bobby, Ricky, Ronnie and Mike doing their best to convince him to do otherwise because no-one will come to the New Edition shows when he’s not there and it’s got cute and catchy conceptual songwriting that today’s teen pop/R&B could use more of.
A Little Bit of Love (Is All It Takes) is a slow, romantic electro-funk groove that either or both of your parents at some point may have done the robot to.
Sweet Thing could be the intro to an ’80s sitcom about a white suburban family with a strict but just father with a golden heart, an overbearingly loving and understanding mother, an insecure teenage daughter, a quirky preteen son and a dog who get into shenanigans together, and it summons exactly that type of cozy mood.
With You All The Way could be about giving up one’s virginity if it were sung by a girl, but since it’s Tresvant it’s about sticking with a loved one through thick and thin. Unless you’re part of the twerk generation there’s a small chance you’ll get laid if you put this on while in a romantic situation with a girl.
Let’s Be Friends has the boys friendzoning some girls because they’re “going too fast”, which may or may not be something that guys actually did in 1985 (For the record, I don’t think they did).
And the rest of the songs with titles KickbackTonight’s Your NightWhispers In Bed, Who Do You TrustSchool and All For Love are exactly what you expect of them if you know what NE is all about.

All For Love is a lot like today’s teen pop albums by the likes of Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus with age-appropriate songs about romantic situations, except more fun and soulful and with a vintage veneer that makes everything sound more classy than it in reality probably is.
The album does nothing to push either NE or music as a whole forward by fucking with new sounds, in fact it sounds like the last album they did, this one must concur to mr. Brown, “that New Edition of the Jackson 5” stuff remains the mantra the producers, songwriters and Ralph appear repeated when working on this, as they had since their debut. But besides the preachy, old-school hip-hop inluenced School there are no real missteps, and I’ll be damned if it isn’t an entertaining collection of music. And if that’s what you’re looking for in music you’ve just found it.

Best tracks
Count Me Out
A Little Bit of Love (Is All It Takes)
With You All the Way

Recommendations
Pick this one up.

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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.


Whitney Houston – Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston
February 14, 1985
Arista RecordsSME
070/100
Whitney Houston - Whitney Houston
1. You Give Good Love // 2. Thinking About You // 3. Someone For Me // 4. Saving All My Love For You // 5. Nobody Loves Me Like You Do (feat. Jermaine Jackson) // 6. How Will I Know // 7. All At Once // 8. Take Good Care of My Heart (Jermaine Jackson feat. Whitney Houston) // 9. Greatest Love of All // 10. Hold Me (Teddy Pendergrass feat. Whitney Houston)

In 1985 and Whitney Houston came fresh on the scene with her self-titled debut album. Whitney was the daughter of grammy winning gospel singer Cissy Houston, with whom she toured a lot at a young age, gaining her first stage experience. Apparently she was offered a bunch of record deals at a young age but her mother declined these because she wanted Whitney to finish high school, which is difficult to do with an international recording career. In 1983 however, she got signed by Arista head honcho Clive Davis. And Davis, Houston and a bunch of producers, including MJ’s big brother Jermaine, got it cracking. Allegedly because of Whitney’s gospel-styled vocals it took them two years to find a suitable set of pop songs, because as tame and slick as Whitney Houston is, it was considered revolutionary upon release. That is really hard to imagine for those who weren’t there at the time to experience the buzz firsthand. You see. For those of us who weren’t around in the mid-’80s to late ’90s, Whitney Houston is best known as that woman whose saccharine pop-soul plays in the background while we’re at the mall to purchase a new winter coat. A generic “diva”.

That is entirely unfair. Houston pioneered the style. The style being melismatically singing over sugarcoated, marshmellow-centred pop instrumentals. Not that this trivia convince anyone that Whitney Houston is a legitimate artist if that person is already convinced of the opposite being true, but that person just may begrudgingly have to give her originality points already.

Whitney Houston sure was a polarising figure for someone who recorded such vanilla-flavoured pop songs. Noted by the record buying audiences, critics and everyone with ears for her exceptional vocal talent and loved to death by her fans. But many of those same critics also believed that in the best case she was satisfied with recording whatever sterile, unexceptional material her producers handed her, or that in the worst case she purposely put her vocal talent to waste, in order to make herself and her label boss Clive Davis filthily rich, by recording songs that appealed to white, middle aged housewives easy listening/ adult contemporary audiences, by dropping every notion of funk, soul and grit to separate as many people from their hard-earned money as possible.

For my money it was the former. As Robert Christgau put it in his 1985 review of this album: “I’d never claim that this sweet, statuesque woman and her sweet, statuesque voice are victims of exploitation. She obviously believes in this schlock.” Kitschy as everything here is, it’s all expertly and properly made and performed earnestly and more than competently by the lady of the hour.  Whitney‘s self-indulgent earnestness is at the very same time at the core of it’s problem. (Anyone who sings lines like “I believe that children are the future.” as she does on Greatest Love of All, without blinking loses cool points immediately, just listen to the ballads off Michael Jackson’s Bad and Dangerous albums.) It is this general air of self-importance that makes this less fun to listen to than, say, New Edition, an album that exists solely to entertain and manages to have some fun doing so, even if Whitney Houston is probably the technically superior effort between the two albums. But to miss Houston’s credit, this probably was the kind of music she wanted to make too, because she does give it her all here and racks up some technically excellent performances over the span of this album’s fifty minutes and ten songs, even blowing more established soul-singers such as Teddy Pendergrass (surprising) and Jermaine Jackson (less surprising) completely out of the water on wat were originally their own songs on their own albums, transplanted to this one.

Her singing is so good in fact that it goes a long way in covering up the fact that most of the material she gets to perform is indeed some corporate songwriting and music-making at its worst, trying to incorporate as many contemporary musical trends  into the most inoffensive musical format available (Kenny G-esque sax solos, clunky synth playing and syrupy strings on most of the ballads and ’80s cop movie car-chase sequence music on Thinking About You.), with lyrics that are meant to appeal to as many women people as possible by going on about romantic situations. I.e.: having met the love of your life (You Give Good Love), having an affair with a married man (Saving All My Love For You), wondering whether someone she has a crush on will ever love her back (How Will I Know) having a complete emotional breakdown (All At Once), all the while maintaining an impossible level of politeness, grace and modesty. In other words Whitney may be properly emoting theatrically, but nowhere does she actually convey any emotion the way anyone would ever actually experience it. Never are there any feelings of spite. On Saving All My Love For You she doesn’t even consider asking the guy to leave his wife to be with her in stead, or telling the guy’s wife that she’s been doing him because “[he’s] got [his] family, and they need [him] there.”

So Whitney Houston is well made to appear lifelike and relatable to as many people as possible, telling tales about the ups and downs of love without trying to shock anyone with profanity, eventually turning out to be no-one’s actual reality. Still if you are the type of person who likes to let yourself be fooled by calculated, measured melodrama this the way to go. Also, the girl could sing. Before the was smoking bobby brown with Bobby Brown and before Mariah ran with her style and topped her in the vocal range department she was arguably technically the best singer in music. This is evident when you realise that some of this mid-1980s shtick is actually saved from blandness by her performances, and that these corporate-songwriter creations are sung a lot more convincingly than they deserve to be. She could actually turn these tin cans into gold with her enormous, unusually clear mezzo-soprano voice. Off course to maximize the potential you’d have to give apply this fantastic instrument to some well written, interesting material. Alas, not much in the form of that is to be found on Whitney Houston, but it would occur later on in her career (i.e.: My Love Is Your Love).

Concluding: Whitney Houston is simultaneously both a good showcase of Whitney’s more than considerable talents and a pretty generic album. For the most part she does her nickname the Voice justice. But the material she gets to work with can’t quite keep up. And Whitney, while technically is singing excellently, can’t quite put reality into these songs beyond a soap-opera level, though she comes close through sheer technical skill.

Best tracks
You Give Good Love
Saving All My Love For You
How Will I Know
All At Once
Greatest Love of All

Recommendations
If you are a fan of sappy, slick, big ballads and well-performed vocal acrobatics and enjoy watching shows such as the VoiceWhitney Houston is for you. It is a textbook classic in the genre of “diva” pop, and possibly it’s highlight. If you’re looking for something realer,  more gritty, and less candy-coated you may have to go find yourself a copy of What’s the 411?.


Run-D.M.C. – King of Rock

Run-D.M.C.
King Of Rock
January 21, 1985
Profile RecordsArista Records/ SME
070/100
RUN-DMC - King of Rock

1.Rock The House // 2. King Of Rock // 3. You Talk Too Much // 4. Jam-Master Jammin’ // 5. Roots, Rock, Reggae // 6. Can You Rock It Like This // 7. You’re Blind // 8. It’s Not Funny // 9. Daryll And Joe (Krush Groove 3)

It’s 1985 and Run DMC releases its second album. The first album brought a whole new sound to the fledgling Hip-Hop genre. The eponymous debut was the first real Hip Hop album (as opposed to singles and compilations that were released prior) and so there were certain expectations for their sophomore album. Would the group still have its big beats, loud MC-ing, guitars and Jam Master Jay on the wheels of steel? Would Run DMC still have that edgy sound? Or would they switch up their style and once again revolutionise the genre, like they did last time around?

At the time of release this album became a commercial hit but that doesn’t answer any of these questions.

After repeated listens I did manage to find some answers.

Rock The House, announces itself with the expected big beats, accompanied by subtle rhythmic patterns. The MCs introduce themselves while the sparse sound is impressive. This track sounds fresh.

King Of Rock is the title track and filled with big beats, guitars, rhyming and has a rock-sound that slightly awakens my inner head banger. This track sounds so righteous in the description Rock-Rap. As I’m writing this track is on repeat for the third time in a row. DMC brags “And I even make the devil sell me his soul” and makes it sound believeable. So far this album is pretty bad-ass and meets the expections one has of Run DMC. The urge to play air guitar on the ending of this track helps make it a guilty pleasure. Seriously, give me a guitar!

You Talk Too Much is the third track and kind of brings the momentum to a halt.

Peep the chorus:

You talk too much.
You never shut up.
You talk too much.
You never shut up.

Guess what this track is about? Seriously this poppy sounding rapping over a typical instrumental, dissing people who talk too much after Rock-Rap awesomeness is part of the album? I’d rather read an entire phonebook than ever listening to this one again, less boring and repetitive. Apparently the song was a success in the 1985, but so were glow-in-the-dark spandex pants. Jam-Master Jammin picks up the pace again. Beats and samples with rock guitars shredding, sounding more enjoyable. Some rhyming by Run and Daryll and all is all good again, for now at least.

Roots, Rap, Reggae follows the raw beat driven sound with relaxing beats and a positive message. Yes alcohol and drugs are dangerous. Tell me something I don’t know… Can You Rock It Like This starts off sounding very poppy. A synthesizer, guitar and drum machine support the MCs in a track that rants about fame and being in the public eye. Lyrically this track is very interesting. Added bonus, you can dance the robot to it! Instrumentally this track is remarkable. It sounds Pop, has a disco feel with a Rock edge and manages to be is both catchy and lyrically meaningful. I’m slightly stunned by the awesomeness

You’re Blind is a soft-rocker with raw beat driven sound. The title should warn you but basically Run and Daryll talk about how people on the wrong path of life are “blind”. The epitome of preachy on this album.

It’s Not Funny, follows. It’s basically about dealing with setbacks in daily life. A preachy and bland low point, yet not so bad that you can’t practice your street dancing moves to it, if you ask me. Jam Master Jay’s productions is quite comical though. At least the humour isn’t lost in the sample.

Daryll And Joe closes the album. It’s a good closer since the lyrics are less preachy and more down to earth than what comes before it. Daryll: “I’ve got more hats than the mad hatter”. Instrumentally “Daryll And Joe” is a slow jam, groovy with some exceptional samples that give an epic feel to the overall sound.

Jam Master Jay made something special of this track.

After a few listens the album grew on me, even if though it is a mixed bag. The first two tracks are great. Jam-Master Jammin up to “Can You Rock It Like This” are good listens too. You Talk Too Much is godawful.  The preaching continues with You’re Blind and It’s Not Funny and Daryll And Joe are a good closing round. Basically their sound hasn’t changed at all, Run and DMC are still loudmouths. And the when Jay summons guitars there is a pleasant rock edge present.

The lyrics are still mostly preaching nursery-rhyming and rapping, and sometimes the duo overdoes it to its own disadvantage bordering on self-parody. I get the Sesame Street feel with the childish You Talk Too Much which makes me understand why some people don’t take this old school trio serious as lyricists and call Run DMC ‘party’ rap. I tend to disagree because  Jam Master Jay’s skills behind the boards are taken out of the equation in that way, which should elevate the group to a higher status. He made some changes to his sound on this album: more variation in the samples, more intertwining rhythm patters, more layered cuts. If anything, I’m amazed by his skills on albums from almost thirty years back and it is mostly his show.

Best tracks
Rock The House
King Of Rock
Can You Rock It Like This
Daryll And Joe

Recommended
Considerably less good than the debut, still consistently listenable with some gems of stand-out tracks. Yes.

My regards,

Rura88