Though unknown to me until recently, the precocious yet level headed musical genius of youth wonder Teddy Riley was by 1988 already more than well known. He had already been involved in his own group Kids At Work-not to mention working with both Doug E Fresh and Kool Moe D before he was 20 years old. In 1987 Riley got together with singers Aaron Hall and Timmy Gatling to form a trio that they called Guy. Having already worked with Keith Sweat and Bobby Brown on their breakthrough albums, Riley was on the cutting edge of a new sound that blended uptempo instrumentally rhythmic funk with the electronic swinging beats of the relatively new hip-hop genre. This music was known as New Jack Swing.
“Groove Me”,”Teddy’s Jam”,”Don’t Clap…Just Dance”,You Can Call Me Crazy”, “Round And Round (Merry Go Round Of Love)” and “Spend The Night”-more than half the album is focused on the new jack swing sound. What brings these songs to life is the groups creamy vocal harmonies,the heavy chord progression based melodies of the songwriting and the strong Charlie Wilson/Stevie Wonder like gospel soul vocal styling’s of Aaron Hall. “Piece Of My Love” and “Goodbye Love” are the two slower numbers here-which are actually fairly stripped down even for new jack type balladry to put focus on the densely chorded vocal harmonies. “I Like” is actually a very 80’s funk oriented number without the swinging hip-hop beat. That is introduced again on my personal favorite song here “My Business”,which has a very jazzy melody and a funkified popping bass line.
During the next few years to come new jack swing would quickly become the mainstream of soul/funk/R&B. Even veteran funk and soul acts from the 70’s and 80’s who made records during that period did so in that style. It became a very overused style of production as a result. And inadvertently began a reliance within the soul/funk community on hip-hop and it’s producers that continues on to this very day. In a way though, that is part of the positive aspect of this album and what it represents. Riley is very much a musician,and infuses this music with some very creative and artful instrumental turns and,most importantly, a return to the presence of strong funk electric bass lines. When this came out, this was part of a musically artistic movement. And not even intended to be an enormous sell out. Teddy Riley sought popularity through innovation,and he got it. No matter how much this albums whole format was imitated,it was really one of the earliest of its kind.
Originally Review From June 15th,2013