Last year, I joined Popdose‘s Jeff Giles and Robert Cass for a column called “‘Face Time,” in which we discussed essential (and some non-essential) cuts in the catalog of Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, one of the most prolific singer/songwriters of the ’80s and ’90s. ‘Face and his partner Antonio “L.A.” Reid were one of the big 3 production teams that ruled pop and R&B during that era. There was also Teddy Riley and his New Jack Swing camp, and perhaps most notably, Minneapolis’s James “Jimmy Jam” Harris III and Terry Lewis. The former members of Prince offshoot band The Time turned out to be legends in their own right, composing and producing hits for a who’s-who of the music industry and proving to be as (if not more) influential than their purple-clad benefactor.
El DeBarge “Sad Songs” (written by El DeBarge, James “Jimmy Jam” Harris III & Terry Lewis, produced by Jam & Lewis)
Jeff Giles: “Oh my God, you just don’t even know what they’re like,” DeBarge told David Nathan in 2010. “I had never worked with them before, and when I walked through the door to their studio, they embraced me like brothers. They said, ‘We’ve been waiting for this opportunity. Don’t worry about it, just sit down at the piano — we know what you can do.’ While I was playing, they were just absorbing ideas; when they played back what I’d been playing … they were able to capture me. I’d never worked with anyone like that before.”
MJ: This documentary is a long watch, but it’s worth it. It also contains some footage of El with Jam & Lewis.
El’s Second Chance was a pretty good album overall, but I thought the three Jam/Lewis tracks were actually kind of weak. This was the best of the bunch.
I do wonder what an El/Jam & Lewis collaboration would’ve sounded like when both were in their heyday.
JG: So I’m not the only one who thinks this song is just kind of…there?
It’s catchy enough, and certainly slick, and of course El is in fine form vocally. But this isn’t what you’d call a distinguished entry in the catalog.
MJ: It’s a pretty song, not much else. Both parties can do better-and have done better.
Again, the remainder of El’s Second Chance album was _really_ fucking good. I hope he follows it up.
(on a serious note, we all hope El is well and gets back in the studio soon.)
Dr. Z: I agree with MJ’s assessment. It’s a pretty song, and it basically ends there. That said, I do like the hook, and El does deliver it flawlessly.
I’m actually a little surprised that this is 2010 – if pressured to guess, I would have placed it a good 13 years earlier.
MJ: Listening to this actually makes me wonder…what would happen if Jam and Lewis recorded with Robin Thicke?
Having typed that, I’m remembering now that they have–sort of. (more in next week’s entry.)
Michael Parr: To MJ’s earlier though if collaboration at the parties respective peak: I’d be willing to bet a box of donuts that Miss Jackson would have taken issue with them “taking sides.”
MJ: Yeah, that crossed my mind. I just wasn’t sure how to articulate that. Thank you, Michael!
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