Classics: Boyz II Men – End Of The Road (Motown)
‘End Of The Road’… Although marking the beginning of theirs in the meantime! ‘End Of The Road’ which initially appeared as a part of the 1992 ‘Boomerang’ OST, brought Boyz II Men straight to international recognition. Thus prompting Motown to re-release their 1991 ‘Cooleyhighharmony’ debut-album and get it as its opening track a few months later.
The smooth and vibrant ‘End Of The Road’ pretty much embodies what made this group so apart. Thus running on multiple lead vocal arrangements from its members. In other words Wanya Morris, Shawn Stockman, Nathan Morris and Michael McCary. This with each of them singing in a particular tone.
With production work by the likes of L.A. & Babyface along with Daryl Simmons, ‘End Of The Road’ is one of the biggest sellers of all time. This emotional ballad that would install the Boyz‘s trademark along with a cappellas set a new record for longevity. This while taking at #1 position for 13 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. And eventually opening a consistent series of chart toppers for the group. From ‘I’ll Make Love To You’ to ‘On Bended Knee’, “Four Seasons Of Loneliness’ and ‘A Song For Mama’ among others…
– The group saw the light back in 1985 at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. They originally appeared as Unique Attraction. This at the initiative of Marc K. Nelson and Nathan Morris along with fellow schoolmates George Baldi, Jon Shoats, and Marguerite Walker. Two years later, Wanyá Jermaine Morris who was singing in the school’s choir with the members of Unique Attraction, joined the group. Meanwhile Baldi, Shoats, and Walker left due to graduation in 1988. The group then eventually recruited Shawn Stockman and Michael McCary joined soon after. Then they renamed the group after one of New Edition‘s songs – ‘Boys To Men’ – from their 1988 ‘Heart Break’ album.
BIIM would get their big break in 1989. This when singin’ backstage for New Edition member Michael Bivins who, along with Ricky Bell and Ronnie DeVoe, had just announced they were forming a New Edition spin-off trio by the likes of Bell, Biv & Devoe.
Quite impressed, Bivins gave them his details. And the rest is almost history. With Bivins sort of becoming their mentor while agreeing to manage them and help producing them.
Strangely enough, Marc Nelson left the group before they recorded their own material. Thus makin’ of Boyz II Men the quartet that soon after found international recognition…
‘Cooleyhighharmony’, Boyz II Men‘s debut-album, came the light on Motown by the end of April 1991. Michael Bivins not only supervised its overall production. But he also did a cameo Rap performance on ‘Motownphilly’. In other words, BIIM‘s first single with production work courtesy of Dallas Austin. Meanwhile, its-follow-up – ‘It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday’ – happened to be an a capella cover version. And this of a Motown classic tune by the likes of G.C. Cameron that’d seen the light back in 1975.
All in all, ‘Cooleyhighharmony’ sold over nine million copies. Eventually reappearing a few months after. This with the inclusion of the smash hit ‘End Of The Road’, produced by Babyface, as a part of the ‘Boomerang’ OST. Then, shortly after the release of the so to say ‘Cooleyhighharmony’ II, BIIM and Michael Bivins parted ways professionally.
After delivering a Xmas compilation, Boyz II Men followed with their ‘II’ album by the end of August 1994. It spanned the #1 singles ‘I’ll Make Love To You produced by Babyface ‘ and ‘On Bended Knee’, by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. With the latter of which replacing the former at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. This makin’ Boyz II Men the third act to replace themselves at #1 Stateside after Elvis Presley and The Beatles. Besides, ‘I’ll Make Love To You’ eventually broke ‘End Of the Road”s 13-week record at #1 by spending 14 weeks at the top of the chart.
All in all, ‘II’ became one of the best-selling albums ever released by an R&B group act, selling more than 12 million copies in the United States alone.
Boyz II Men‘s third studio album, ‘Evolution’, came to light by the beginning of the Autumn of 97 to mixed reviews. Only selling 3 millions copies Stateside. This despite the presence of ‘Four Seasons Of Loneliness which brought them back to #1. Then the one of the Babyface produced ‘A Song For Mama’ from the ‘Soul Food’ OST.
Strangely enough and although they remain quite popular, none of their following albums ever got the same following from then. Beginning with their 2000 ‘Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya’ album which hardly sold more than 1 million copies worldwide. With the same applying to ‘Full Circle’ which marked their brief stint at Arista back in 2002. In addition to this ‘Full Circle’ stands as Boyz II Men‘s final album as a quartet. With Michael McCary leavin’ in January 2003 due to chronic back problems because of multiple sclerosis. Then Arista soon after releasing them from their contract.
Boyz II Men most likely went independent from then. This to the exception of a return with Universal in 2007. This resulting in the release of the ‘Motown: Hitsville USA’ album on Decca Records.
Since then BIIM have released five more albums with their latest – ‘Under The Streelight’ – back in 2017 on Tango Entertainment.
– I remember the first time I heard of Babyface. This was back in 1983 actually. At a time, a friend of mine who was livin’ in Jacksonville, FL, used to listen to a radio named 95X. Eventually sendin’ me recorded tapes of their shows. With this being how I would get to listen to boiling cuts such as Margie Joseph‘s ‘Big Strong Man’ produced by Narada Michael Walden. But also Melba Moore‘s ‘Love Me Right’ with production work courtesy of Paul Lawrence Jones. Not to mention the then unknown The Deele (featuring Babyface) with the vibrant although quite underrated ‘Just My Luck’.
I guess the next time I saw a mention of Babyface was back in 1987. This along with partner Antonio L.A. Reid as the producers of The Whispers‘ ‘Rock Steady’. Meanwhile, I would get to stumble upon the firing ‘Mary Mack’ during that same year…
A native of Indianapolis, IN, Kenneth Brian Edmonds attended the North Central High School. Eventually writing songs as obviously too shy to express his emotions differently. Not only a vocalist but also able to play guitar and keyboards, he came to play along with Bootsy Collins. With the latter givin’ him his ‘Babyface’ nickname because of his cute face while he was still a teen.
Babyface eventually hooked up with Daryl Simmons when performing under the Manchild banner. This before joining The Deele where he happened to meet Antonio L.A. Reid who whom he would form a production unit a few years later. Then a record label by the likes of LaFace Records. Meanwhile, one of his first major credits as a songwriter remains the memorable ‘Slow Jam’ for Midnight Star back in 1983.
All in all, Babyface started his solo career back in 1986. He has released a total of 10 studio albums to date. With his latest – ‘Return Of The Tender Lover’ – seeing the light on Def Jam Recordings back in 2015. This in addition to an ‘MTV Unplugged’ and two Christmas packages.
He has written and produced over 25 #1 R&B hits throughout his career and has won 11 Grammy Awards. With his name strongly associated to the establishment of the Swingbeat (also known as Street Beat). The latter opening the path for the New Jack Swing era. Thus responsible for an impressive series of masterpieces. From The Whispers (‘Rock Steady’) and Bobby Brown (‘Don’t Be Cruel’, ‘Every Little Step’). To Karyn White (‘The Way You Love Me’) and the Mac Band (‘Roses Are Red’). But also Boyz II Men (‘End Of The Road’, ‘I’ll Make Love To You’, A Song For Mama’). Not to mention Sheena Easton (‘The Lover In Me’) and The Jacksons‘ ‘Nothin That Compares 2 U’. Or ‘Mary Mack’ and ‘For The Cool In You’ which he crafted for himself among many others.
No surprisingly, Face has come to collaborate with a countless lumiaries. From Whitney Houston to Toni Braxton, Aretha Franklin and Janet Jackson. But also her brother, Michael, Ashanti, Mariah Carey, Faith Evans and Mary J Blige among many others.
Then, if it wasn’t already enough, Babyface performed on the Season 4 episode of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ entitled ‘Mr. Walsh Goes to Washington (Part 2)’. And soon after he set up Edmonds Entertainment Group. Thus producing films such as ‘Soul Food’ and ‘Josie & The Pussycats’. Or putting together the soundtrack for ‘The Prince Of Egypt’. In addition to act as the executive producer the BET reality series ‘College Hill’ between 2004 and 2009.