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Johnny Gill

Johnny Gill

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Album Review

Johnny Gill re-established himself as a solo artist in 1990, and he did so in tremendous fashion, recording an astonishing self-titled debut for Motown that brought together the hitmaking duos Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and L.A. & Babyface to produce an album chock-full of hits. The combination of these two duos was unprecedented. Along with Teddy Riley, they had dominated late-'80s urban radio, utterly and absolutely, churning out hit after hit after hit and co-defining the burgeoning new jack swing movement in the process. Gill likewise had recently experienced enormous success during the late '80s when, following two flat solo albums for Atlantic, he joined New Edition for its Heart Break album and its long run of hits, including "Can You Stand the Rain," a number one hit that featured him prominently. Thus it was only fitting that Motown's visionary teaming of these artists at their respective primes culminated in a set of wonderful songs, chief among them "Rub You the Right Way" (a Jam & Lewis production) and "My, My, My" (L.A. & Babyface). The former was a high-energy, pleading chart-stormer that infiltrated urban radio with brute force and sent Gill straight up the charts in the process; the song furthermore became a coast-to-coast club favorite — and remained so for years upon years afterward, standing tall as one of the definitive new jack swing anthems of the era. The latter was the yin to "Rub You the Right Way"'s yang; it became a quiet storm favorite and even crossed over to the pop and smooth jazz markets, reprising many of the same qualities that had made Babyface's own "Whip Appeal" single such an across-the-board chart-topper only a year earlier. While nothing else on Johnny Gill quite rivaled "Rub You the Right Way" and "My, My, My," the remainder of the album still had more than its fair share of highlights. There was a second round of singles ("Fairweather Friend" was another new jack stepper, "Wrap My Body Tight" another slow jam), as well as a couple of excellent album tracks ("Feels So Much Better" and "Giving My All to You") that could have been hits for anyone else. But after four singles and a good year or so of chart saturation, Gill and Motown collected their winnings and moved on. To the continual frustration of the singer, he would be forever dogged by this unduplicatable success, an album so massive, so epochal it would become, in a sense, his ultimate legacy. And a fine legacy it is, indeed.

Customer Reviews

DC's Finest

"These are the things that change boys to men." In early 1990 Johnny Gill took his high school classmate, Stacy Lattisaw, to number one for the first time in her 8 year career. He had just done the same for the Boston boys, New Edition, when he joined them 2 years prior and NE hadn't seen number one since Bobby Brown's premature departure in '85. Now it was time for Johnny to take care of himself. Johnny Gill, Jr. had been brought to Atlantic Records by his home girl, Lattisaw in '83 and though he was somewhat of a phenomenon, being a seasoned vocalist at only 17, his first album was a complete dud. Even with it's time appropriate single, "Super Love," the album was just not up to the standards of a classic male voice and not hip enough for the teen crowd lauding New Edition and Five Star at the time. His sophomore album, Chemistry, was a much better step in the right direction with the incomparable Linda Creed at the helm. But even with it's bonafied adult sound and lead single, "Half Crazy," it missed the mark as well, because audiences just didn't want to hear what they new to be a teen star sing Luther-esque ballads. The duet album with Stacy, Perfect Combination, got a bit more exposure on the DC balladeer, likening itself to previous Atlantic DC Donny Hathaway & Roberta Flack's eponymous duet album, but the album didn't impact the way the top ten title cut did and Johnny soon found himself looking for a new label home. Signing to Motown under Jheryl Busby, Divine Order would have it that New Edition needed an adult voice to grow them up. And considering their MCA now distributed Motown, Johnny was soon filling Bobby Brown's spot and cementing New Edition's fan base in the full African-American spectrum, not just teen audiences. "What you've been missing in a man, I can supply it, your wish is my command." When it was time to work on Johnny's first album for Motown, not only would Jam & Lewis be contracted, but their rivals, LA & Babyface as well. It was the first time both teams would work on the same project. What do you get when you cross the greatest producers of the 80's with the greatest producers of the 90's and the "next great male vocalist?" A perfect album. Blasting out of the gate, Jam & Lewis launched Johnny's singles and album with "Rub You The Right Way," an extremely percussive jam demanding Johnny put to use his newly acquired NE dance skills. It was just what New Edition's now widely expanded fan base would want to hear and see from one of the leading men. The single went straight to number one on the R&B chart and number three on the pop chart respectively. For the album sequence and single releases, Jam & Lewis would do a bit of volleying. The 2nd single and b-side lead off, produced by LA & Babyface, was a quiet storm juggernaut complete with background vocals from After 7 and saxophone provided by Kenny G. As romantic a ballad can come, "My, My, My" let Johnny's smooth then rough tenor/baritone serenade American audiences to a second number one R&B, top 10 pop notch on Billboard. LA & Face's "Fairweather Friend" was third consecutive smash from the album-this time showing their percussive side and taking Johnny to number two on the R&B chart. And for Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis' single finale, "Wrap My Body Tight" took put Johnny back at number one with a sexy mid-tempo, just a tad less percussive, but nevertheless effective. The album could be considered classic from the singles run alone, but the album cuts are what make it truly a cornerstone for r&b long plays. LA & Face's "Feels So Much Better," co-produced by Pebbles, and backed by the angelic voice of Karyn White, could only be an album cut on a truly phenomenal album. It would be the mid-tempo standout that ultimately could've landed Johnny another number one single. A much throatier baritone sets the mood, bringing in Karyn's airy bridges, Face then solos on keys, and then the trademark LaFace choral vamp takes the record on home. Truly brilliant. The b-side was all ballads and only one official single ("Giving My All To You" was released in response to radio airplay, but not pushed and had no video), but it was just as flawless as the a-side, even if saved for Black radio’s Quiet Storm. Two sleeper architects guaranteed the strong finish. Jam & Lewis' secondary, Randy Ran, and Luther Vandross’ pal & collaborator, Nat Adderly Jr., deliver truly top-shelf productions with "Lady Dujour," "Let's Spend the Night" and "Just Another Lonely Night." Adderly's "Lonely Night" was done in the exact science of Luther's ballads, with the crisp rimshot and frontal bass guitar. Only Johnny Gill could vocally handle a framing customarily made for Vandross. Ran's "Dujour" would be a crowd favorite at Gill's live performances, while Ran’s own piercing falsetto/alto (heard previously on his ex-wife Cherelle’s work), would be the most memorable sound finishing "Spend the Night" and subsequently, the album. A perfect album.

The Best

This music was proof Johnny should have never been part of New Edition. He outranked all of them!

awesome

great album rub you the right way is a new jack swing classic, while my my my slowz things down an is a great opposite

Biography

Born: May 22, 1966 in Washington D.C.

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

A singer behind eight solo and duet Top Ten R&B hits, as well as a member of New Edition since 1987, Johnny Gill was born in Washington, D.C., and began singing at a young age, beside his brothers in the gospel group Wings of Faith. His solo career began in 1983, when he signed to the Atlantic-affiliated Cotillion label and scored a number 29 R&B hit with his first single, the Freddie Perren-produced "Super Love." Even then, Gill had a mature and muscular voice — one that sounded more...
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Johnny Gill, Johnny Gill
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