SLAMMIN ‘95 CDs That Didn’t Bust the Charts
CD review & news by Wayne A. Young
“You know, Black artists used to launch careers that lasted 20 to 30 years. Now, thanks to the way the music business is run today, you’re lucky if your career last five years,” says Patrice Rushen.
Rushen, Gladys Knight, Nancy Wilson, Lena Home and Stevie Wonder were some of the celebrated veterans who released slamin’ CD’s in 1995, but whose works didn’t do what “Practice What you Preach” did for Barry White.
Newcomers Norman Brown, Morgan Heritage, Spearhead and Vanessa Williams, as a Broadway musical artist, also produced innovative music for 1995, but they failed to even see the mountain that was topped by upstart and self-proclaimed freak Adina Howard.
Like many seasoned performers who hear novices use their creations, Rushen does get satisfaction from Mary J. Blige’s and R. Kelly’s use of her “Remind Me,” Def Jeff for using “Hang It Up” and Shabba Rank’s use of “Feel so Real” on “What You Gonna Do.” But Rushen says that she wants the public to hear her new sounds including the driving “State of Mind” and the soothing, “Your Heart My Heart” on her latest CD, Anything But Ordinary.
Knight got more play than Rushen with her “End of the Road Medley” and “Next Time,” but her Just for You CD also includes Curtis Mayfield’s lyrically heavy “Choice of Colors,” Gladys’ love testimony, “Our Love,” and what should have become the Black woman’s anthem, “Guilty.”
Nancy Wilson! What else can be said about the musical legend? Her 55th album, Love, Nancy features her mellow version of Bonnie Raitt’s 1991 hit, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and “First Time on a Ferris Wheel,” which was previously done by Smokey Robinson and Syretta on The Last Dragon sound- track. Keeping with the trend of putting inspirational music on the last track, Nancy’s CD is blessed with “Your Arms of Love.”
Lady Horne graces the scene with friendship and love songs on 'We’ll Be Together Again." Knowing that Horne has been around the block a few times makes her lyrics believable - which reminds me of what diva Freda Payne (“Band of Gold”) told me about Boys II Men: It’s hard to relate to them on an emotional level because- - it’s like they can be my sons!” Well, Horne is old enough to make us believe she has done things she may not have done.
In touch with the times, Horne sings “Forever Was a Day,” a tribute to her friends who have died of AIDS. She gets a little funky on “Love Like This Can’t Last,” and sentimental on “I’ II Always Leave the Door a Little Open.” (Meanwhile, Payne hopes to release a Christmas CD this year.)
Wonder continues to produce crusading musical wonders with “My Love Is with You.” He now crusades against handguns. Wonder also renews his trademark application on classic, timeless long songs with “I’m New" on Conversation Peace.
Opening acts can be boring, but that wasn’t the case with Normal Brown who opened for Patti LaBelle in early 1995 at the Warner Theater. Before Patti came out to sit in her “chair, chair” that was profusely covered with brightly colored flowers, the jazz guitarist delivered his seductive remake of Luther Vandross’ “Any Love” and Janet Jackson’s “That’s the Way Love Goes,” from his CD After the Storm. Equally pleasing is his original creation, “Lydian.”
Members of the new group Morgan Heritage are the children of Denroy “I’II Do Anything for You” Morgan. People talk about encouraging young men to be responsible fathers, but this Arrested Development type group’s title cut, “Miracle,” about a young man becoming a father, got no play! What’s the deal?
Spearhead’s Home is sometimes lightly profane, full of rap, culture, militant and socially conscience. From “Love Is Da Shit” and "Red, Beans and Rice” to the basketball “Dream Team,” which includes Marcus Garvey and Angela Davis as fictional players, the group provides some of the most innovative lyrics. On “Positive,” group leather Michael co-writes about getting an HIV test: “But how’m I gonna live my life if I’m positive? Is it gonna be a negative?
And though Vanessa Williams continues to command the TV screen and radio air waves, you may have missed her grand debut on Broadway. But, you don’t have to miss her specially released Kiss of the Spiderwoman CD. Seduction galore, Vanessa really pours in on with the title track and “Gimme Love.’’ Also included on the musical sound track is Brian Mitchell, formerly Jackpot on trapper John, M.D. – - the brother can sing!