A collection of R&B tunes, released in the mid-'90s by the always wonderful Rhino Records. Liner notes are exceptional, which is par for the course for Rhino. Songs on this volume are from the years 1977-83. There's some good songs on here, but very few that I'd consider smooth although they are sensual (some of 'em downright nasty - which greatly appealed to teenage Mark). It finishes strong, but of the three volumes I own, this is by far the weakest.
Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart
Peak on Billboard's R&B albums chart: #39
- Very Special - Debra Laws (1981), #11 R&B, #90 Pop: a nice quiet storm single with tasty sax work from Debra's brother Ronnie. Unfortunately, Ronnie also sings on this one and the thought of siblings singing a love song duet is creepy, to say the least.
- Outstanding (12" Single Version) - The Gap Band (1982), #1 R&B for 1 week, #51 Pop: I'd describe this groove as funky, not smooth, but whatever you call it, the bass line is hella catchy and I find my head bobbing along to the Stevie Wonder knock-off vocals. Since 1982, it's been heavily sampled and I can see why.
- Juicy Fruit (12" Single Version) - Mtume (1983), #1 R&B for 8 weeks, #45 Pop: Even though writer/producer James Mtume has excellent credentials (he worked with Miles Davis, for chrissakes), I never cared much for this tune, turned off by the electronic drums.
- Between the Sheets - The Isley Brothers (1983), #3 R&B, #101 Pop: Not exactly subtle lyrically, I love this quiet storm groove and, of course, Isley vocals are first-rate. Fantastic smooth ballad.
- Sexual Healing - Marvin Gaye (1982), #1 R&B for 10 weeks, #3 Pop: Unlike most people, I think this song is just okay (the best part to me is the percussion loop). Give me any of Gaye's earlier Motown singles over this one.
- Forget Me Nots - Patrice Rushen (1982), #4 R&B, #23 Pop: I've always liked this tune, but it is oddly out of place here - more of a dance groove (it reached #2 on the disco charts) than smooth groove. Great bass line from Freddie Washington and memorable sax solo from Gerald Albright. I had to secretly enjoy this one in '82 as it didn't exactly jive with the New Waver image I was trying (and failing) to cultivate back then.
- Betcha She Don't Love You - Evelyn King (1982), #2 R&B, #49 Pop: Never heard this one before buying this compilation. It is neither smooth nor sensual. Although the bass line really tries, I can't muster much more than a meh.
- You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else - The Jones Girls (1979), #5 R&B, #38 Pop: Another out-of-place dance tune, but since it was written/produced by Gamble & Huff, it's welcome addition. Great groove, just don't play it to get your sweetie in the mood.
- All Night Long - Mary Jane Girls (1983), #11 R&B, #101 Pop: Now we're back to smooth grooves. Unfortunately, this Rick James joint never seems to go anywhere, so I tire of it rather quickly until it's brought back to life by the sax solo at the end.
- Tonight is the Night (Live Version) - Betty Wright (1978), #11 R&B: Musically, it reminds me more than a little of the Young Rascals' Groovin. But the lyrics - oh, my. It's enough to make a middle-age man blush. But now things are gettin' good. The liner notes call it "as down-to-earth as an order of rib-ends and red soda pop." I'll have some of that.
- Hollywood - Rufus, featuring Chaka Khan (1977), #3 R&B, #32 Pop: Man, I'm glad they put this song on here. I hadn't heard it in years but immediately found myself singing along with Chaka again. Not too sensual (the previous track has enough of that for the whole album), but a smooth groove, for sure. The arrangement, the smooth jazz-ish chord progressions, the backing groove - it all fits.
- Send for Me - Atlantic Starr (1981), #16 R&B: We end with the only true slow jam on the disc. And probably Atlantic Starr's best song. Wish the whole album had been this smooth. As wineys (wine snobs) are wont to say: this selection has a long, balanced finish.
Previously revisited for the blog: