dirty martini

old music for new people

90s r&b: long lost midtempos September 15, 2008

90s r&b albums were full of midtempos, even though it was usually the ballads or club bangers that got released as singles.

so, there are plenty of quality tunes that never really saw the light of day.

download 90s r&b midtempos

assorted phlavors – lovin’ on the d.l

the girls only released one album, and managed not to overdo the ballads. arrived at the same time as allure, who were more successful. well, they made it to three albums.

brandy – as long as you’re here

this is from brandy’s 1994 debut. like so many other r&b albums of its era, it had some tiresome interludes and so you often didn’t make it past ‘sunny day’, which is a shame as there were a couple of cool midtempos.

brownstone – revenge

like 3t, brownstone suffered somewhat from the michael jackson effect. believe it or not at one point he was considered a bit safe…anyway, by the time of the girls’ second album they appeared to have shaken off the worthiness that plagued parts of their debut.

braxtons – girl on the side

the fact that the sisters would only make one album was a foregone conclusion. spin-off family groups have limited success for a reason. if any were better than their famous sibling, they would have been the one with the career.

changing faces – am i wasting my time

less sleazy than their other earlier offerings. they marked their territory early with ‘stroke you up’, but could have had much more interesting careers if they’d switched to an A&R with a clue.

janet jackson – where are you now

janet only really started doing midtempos in the 90s as far as I can remember. this is the janet remixed version, which is far superior.

kreuz – crush on you

kreuz, in true copycat brit style, tried to emulate r.kelly with tunes like ‘slap and tickle’. this is so much better. these days, emulating r.kelly is best left to the comedians.

mariah carey – slipping away

not strictly an album track, but should have been as its better than the ballads on ‘daydream’. love this early 90s style mariah.

mokenstef – it happens

i always thought ‘he’s mine’ was a cute song, but didn’t have high hopes for the album. this is a really nice track, that could have made a great single.

shola ama – can’t have you

shola is the uk queen of midtempo soul, when she isn’t being remixed for the uk garage crew. that late 90s/early 00s style has been sounding tired of late but with the next decade approaching it will probably undergo a revival.

swv – coming home

swv’s first album saw many tracks released and remixed, but not this one. i think a remix would have lost the point, so its good that they left well enough alone.

xscape – is my living in vain

xscape don’t have a plethora of great album tracks in their back catalogue, their strongest tracks tended to get released, but this is the essence of their debut.

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just let your soul glo April 29, 2007

sometime in about 1984 surfaced a phenomenon that would last well into the late 80s – jheri curl soul.borne out of the post-disco movement, curl soul was a more electronic style that made use of damn near every new sound available. jheri curl soul identified itself in a number of ways –

  1. the hair, obviously. before eddie murphy and co satirised said hairdo in ‘coming to america‘, the jheri curl was big business. cue glistening curls and plenty of grease-stained sofas
  2. the bands often resembled an extended family photo – it was not uncommon for groups to have more than five members
  3. a glitzy name – bonus points for inclusion of the word ‘star’ or ‘band’ and for translating your name into fauxfrancais: atlantic starr, five star, midnight star, the sos band, the bb&q band, royalle delite, club nouveaux, intrique
  4. if you can’t convince your family to join in, or are a norman-no-mates, a duo is your best bet – rene and angela, aurra, ashford and simpson
  5. reflective and/or brightly coloured silk suiting must be standard issue, and don’t forget those shoulder pads. essential for the moody yet inviting, hands on hips pose favoured by many of said bands
  6. allude to yet more glamour and excitement in your lyrics. recommended themes are – gold and silver, notoriety, electricity, being the finest, a freak, turning someone on, having secret affairs, taking your clothes off
  7. sprinkle liberally with tinkly sounds, synths, squelchy basslines and hyperactive drum patterns

for all that, the music should have been shit. but it was amazing. yes it was manufactured, so what. it sounds positively organic next to the late 90s robo-pop of the backstreet boys and britney spears. nothing quite sums up the 80s and a sunny day as effectively as this glossy, aspirational music. nothing made me more desperate to grow up and go to a real club so i could pretend to be one of these perfect specimens.

but since i was ooh, a good 8 years from being able to slip into a club with fake id, i danced in front of the tv in my pixie boots and silver dress, hair piled high and as much makeup as i could get away with. i strutted and pointed and pouted, to my parent’s amusement.

ten jheri curl soul classicsdownload here

midnight star – midas touch
midnight star comprised nine members. the exact role of each is unclear, but they all sported the prerequisite curls and loud suit, so contributed in some small way to the band’s success. this ode to all things gold was their biggest uk hit, in 1986.


klymaxx – the men all pause
pioneering ‘curl soul. klymaxx were a six-piece girl band in the traditional sense – they all played an instrument. this track was from their 1984 album ‘ meeting in the ladies room’.


lillo thomas – sexy girl
textbook 1987 example of the genre. associate of kashif and paul laurence, lillo was an olympic calibre athlete before an accident in 1984 forced him to pursue an alternative career.


the sos band – no one’s gonna love you
exquisitely produced track that almost sums up the genre. lovely bells, swooshes and that bassline. if it sounds familiar, it was sampled by r&b singer maxwell for a remix of his first hit ‘ascension’ in 1996.

rene and angelai’ll be good
slightly scary example of the curl’n’suit combo who had several sizable hits in the mid-80s. this 1985 hit was later used to good effect by jay-z and foxy brown.

jermaine stewart – we don’t have to take our clothes off
song that we delighted in singing at brownies, because we thought it was rude. from the poppier end of jheri curl soul and in fact, jermaine had unnaturally straight hair. perhaps in protest? can’t have been any easier to maintain…


atlantic starr – silver shadow
active throughout the 80s, atlantic starr are best known for ballads ‘always’ and ‘secret lovers’. this track was only released in the uk, where it prospered on the back of the club scene ignited by loose ends et al.


kashif – i just gotta have you
a big part of the 80s soul scene, producer kashif‘s own releases aren’t as well known as his work for others, including disco queen evelyn champagne king, george benson and dionne warwick, amongst others.


mac band – roses are red
a good example of the simple but effective lyrics used in many jheri soul cuts. this track still gets played out today.


the jets – curiosity
this polynesian eight-piece family act first rose to fame in 1987 with the poppy ‘crush on you’ led by then 15 year old vocalist elizabeth. since their late 80s success, younger siblings have replaced those retiring, from a pool of seventeen candidates.