ESSENTIAL ALBUMS OF THE NEW JACK SWING ERA: “WHAT’S THE 411?”

On July 28, 1992, Mary J. Blige’s debut album “What’s the 411?” was released. Her first single, “You Remind Me,” was an infectious uptempo tune written and produced by Dave “Jam” Hall. It set the tone for the album’s success. Blige, like Jodeci the previous year, had her look and style orchestrated by a now Uptown Records executive Sean “Puffy” Combs. Combs had Mary dressed like a female version of Jodeci. The result was seen in her next single and first music video, “Real Love.” In that video of another infectious dance track co-written and produced by Fat Boys member Prince Marky Dee and Mark Rooney, Blige and her backup dancers are dressed as tomboys in full baseball caps and jerseys. While both songs were excellent records and top five Billboard R&B hits, it was her next single and video that made her my favorite female singer of all time. More

ESSENTIAL ALBUMS OF THE NEW JACK SWING ERA: “OOOOOOHH…….ON THE TLC TIP”

Heading into 1992, the first four years of the New Jack Swing Era were completely dominated by male singers. That was no longer the case in 1992 with the release of several classic albums by female acts. 1992 would be the year of the female. That all commenced on February 25, 1992 with the release of TLC’s first album, “Oooooohh……On the TLC Tip.” More

ESSENTIAL ALBUMS OF THE NEW JACK SWING ERA: “DANGEROUS”

Many legendary figures in the history of the world, whether it be in sports, politics or music, have adapted to the times in order to continue their career. When Muhammad Ali lost a step, he became more reliant on his incredible chin and heart. When Pedro Martinez lost some zip off his fastball, he became more of a finesse pitcher. When Michael Jackson and his brothers left Motown in the mid 1970’s, they signed a deal with CBS Records and the legendary music label, Philly International, headed by the legendary songwriting duo of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. Philly International was dominating the 70’s urban music scene not unlike Motown dominated the 60’s urban music scene. The Jacksons, led by Michael, adapted to the Philly sound and created some of their greatest music. It’s a formula that Michael used when he approached Teddy Riley to help produce the album “Dangerous.” The result: the single, biggest selling album of the New Jack Swing Era in which it sold over 30 million albums worldwide. More

ESSENTIAL ALBUMS OF THE NEW JACK SWING ERA: “FOREVER MY LADY”

On May 28, 1991, the debut album of the single, greatest group of not only the New Jack Swing Era, but of 1990’s R&B music period was released. Upon hearing this album for the first time back then, I was taken aback by the vocals of the group’s lead singer. The group was Jodeci, and it’s lead singer was Cedric “K-Ci” Hailey. K-Ci’s voice was raw and powerful in that rich southern R&B tradition. His voice was David Ruffin meets Bobby Womack. Jodeci would set the standard for R&B groups to come. From 1991-1995, there wasn’t a greater R&B group on the planet. Their debut album, “Forever My Lady,” was in my opinion, the single greatest album recorded by a group in the New Jack Swing Era. More

ESSENTIAL ALBUMS OF THE NEW JACK SWING ERA: “COOLEYHIGHHARMONY”

During New Edition’s 1989 concert tour, five high school friends from Philadelphia snuck backstage at the Philadelphia Spectrum to meet them. While security attempted to remove them from the premises, the five young men began singing in acappella “Can You Stand The Rain.” Michael Bivins was so impressed, he gave the group his phone number and told them to call him. This resulted in Bivins becoming their manager and the group was signed to Motown Records. The five young men consisted of Marc Nelson, Shawn Stockman, Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris and Michael McCary. They would name their group Boyz II Men after a song off of New Edition’s “Heart Break” album. Nelson left the group just before they commenced recording of their first album, “Cooleyhighharmony.”

“Cooleyhighharmony” was the second consecutive album released under new Motown honcho Jheryl Busby that was an immediate hit. Released on Valentine’s Day 1991, this album was an integral part of Motown’s last great glory era. The first single off the album, “Motownphilly,” was a prototypical New Jack Swing uptempo track, complete with the sound and rap lyrics featuring Bivins. This single, an infectious dance track, went to number three on the Billboard Pop charts and number one on the Billboard R&B charts. It was the beginning of a historic five year run that was only equalled in history by legendary acts Elvis, The Beatles, Whitney Houston, and The Rolling Stones. The second single would be one of my favorite songs ever recorded by them. More

ESSENTIAL ALBUMS OF THE NEW JACK SWING ERA: “JOHNNY GILL”

As a child, the first two singers that caught my attention were Teddy Pendergrass and Donny Hathaway. They were, in my opinion, the most soulful singers of the 1970’s. The 1980’s were dominated by soul singers with falsetto and soft tenor type voices. The New Jack Swing era brought back the baritone style that both Pendergrass and Hathaway displayed a decade earlier. Johnny Gill, from his early solo work and with New Edition, was the first singer since Teddy and Donny with an explosive, seductive baritone. It would all come together with Gill’s Motown Records debut album, the self titled “Johnny Gill.” More

ESSENTIAL ALBUMS OF THE NEW JACK SWING ERA: “POISON”

After the tremendous success of “Heartbreak,” each member of New Edition decided to take a sabbatical from the group to work on their own individual projects. Ricky Bell, Ronnie DeVoe and Michael Bivins formed the group Bell Biv DeVoe, or BBD as they are better known, a more seductive, adult oriented offshoot of New Edition. The result was one of the most provocative R&B albums of all time, 1990’s “Poison.” More

ESSENTIAL ALBUMS OF THE NEW JACK SWING ERA: “TENDER LOVER”

Following the spectacular success of Bobby Brown’s “Don’t Be Cruel,” L.A. Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds were in huge demand throughout the music industry to help write and produce songs. However, Babyface made a concerted effort to concentrate on releasing a solo album. With help from Reid and childhood friend Darryl Simmons, the three of them created a masterpiece. “Tender Lover” was released on July 23, 1989. This album would showcase not only the incredible writing and producing skills of the three man hit squad, but would display the incredible tenor/falsetto voice of one of the greatest singers in the history of soul music. It would be Babyface’s greatest solo work in his illustrious career. More