Lost but not least! The Jacksons – Nothin That Compares 2 U (Epic)
“Nothin that compares 2 U…” I suppose the title of this swingin’ gem pretty much embodied the impression many people ended up havin’ about The Jacksons after all these years. And how could it ever be different at the end, considering their impressive repertoire.
‘Nothin That Compares 2 U’ and the album it’s taken from – ‘2300 Jackson Street’ – happened to be pivotal for many reasons in the history of the group. First because it happened to be the first album of the band without Michael Jackson. Not to mention Marlon who’d left to pursue a solo career. Then because it saw them jumpin’ on the then emerging R&B/Swing vibe. This while teamin’ up with New Jack Swing mogul, Teddy Riley on a couple of cuts including its title track. But also with in-demand pair L.A. & Babyface producing ‘Nothin That Compares 2 U’ for them. And what a job they did once again…
‘Nothin That Compares 2 U’ only scored a #77 position in the US Pop chart though. And this despite an undeniable (and timeless) appeal. In the vein of firing gems which Face and his partner have crafted for a bunch of luminaries. From The Mac Band (‘Rose Are Red’) to Bobby Brown (‘Don’t Be Cruel’). But also Karyn White (‘The Way You Love Me’) and The Whispers (‘Rock Steady’). And this with The Jacksons really rockin’ at the end. Don’t you think?
Ironically, Epic would fire the band after all these years. Justifyin’ their decision while pointing the poor following the album generated. Selling over half a million copies worldwide.
– Did ever Jackie, Tito and their mother realize their would give birth to one of the most exciting ventures in the history of music? This when they found themselves singin’ harmonies together at night after the family’s TV had broken down!?! They would later be joined by Marlon, Jermaine and Michael. With their mom leavin’ when father Joe officially formed The Little Jackson Brothers.
It wasn’t long before he turned their name into The Jackson Five Singing Group (upon suggestion), itself naturally shortened to The Jackson Five…
After they won a talent contest at the NY Apollo Theater during the Summer of 1967, Gladys Knight eventually sent a demo of them to Motown. But the label rejected it, sendin’ it back to the boys’ hometown in Gary, IN. Soon after, while performing at Beckman Junior High in Gary, they came to the attention of Gordon Keith who signed them on his Steeltown label. Eventually producing their debut-single – ‘Big Boy’ – and releasing it by the end of January 1968. The Five givin’ it a follow-up – ‘We Don’t Have To Be Over 21 (To Fall In Love)’ – before switching to Motown.
There, they started working along with Bobby Taylor who’d brought them to the label. The latter comin’ to produce their debut hits. In other words, ‘I Want You Back’, ‘ABC’ and ‘The Love You Save’. Meanwhile, ‘I’ll Be There’ co-written and produced by Hal Davis, became the group’s fourth #1 single. This makin’ of them the first recording act to have their first four singles reach the top of the Hot 100!
The heat was (definitely) on, and it wasn’t long before The Jackson 5 became Motown’s best-selling group and main marketing focus. Motown jumpin’ on the band’s success to launch both Michael and Jermaine‘s solo careers.
By 1973, with an ear/eye on the then emerging Disco scene, the band delivered ‘Get It Together’. An album that saw them collaborating with writers such as Norman Whitfield and Leon Ware. The title track of their album somehow markin’ an evolution of their sound towards funkier vibes. With the same applying to ‘Dancing Machine’.
Two years after though, most of the group members decided to stop recording for Motown. Therefore claiming for creative control and get a better royalty rate. Eventually signing with Epic in June 1975. To the exception of Jermaine who decided to stay with Motown, with Randy replacing him from then on. The group turnin’ their name from The Jackson 5 (which was owned by Motown) to The Jacksons. Eventually makin’ their debut for their new label via Philadelphia International Records. This most likely being how they came to embrace the Philly Sound such as one could hear on the outstanding although quite underrated ‘Style Of Life’ which saw the light as the B-side of ‘Enjoy Yourself’.
The Jacksons eventually delivered another album for PIR before switching to Epic and release ‘Destiny’. An album that spanned ‘Blame It On The Boogie’ and ‘Shake Your Body Down To The Ground’, their biggest success ever for Epic. Another two years on, and would come its follow-up, ‘Triumph’. The latter featuring the memorable ‘Can You Feel It’, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and ‘Walk Right Now’.
In 1984 came ‘Victory’. The only album ever that saw the six brothers officially under the same banner. But also the last one along with Michael takin’ the lead vocals. Itself resulting in extra gems such as ‘Torture’ and ‘State Of Shock’ along with Mick Jagger. The… Victory Tour supported the album. Michael and Marlon went their respective ways shortly after the tour ended. Meanwhile Jermaine, Tito, Randy and Jackie continued as The Jacksons. Eventually releasing one more album, ‘2300 Jackson Street’, back in 1989, along with their sisters, Janet and Rebbie. Its title track nevertheless featuring the all six Jackson brothers.
Strangely enough, ‘2300 Jackson Street’ charted poorly. This despite the presence of the killer ‘Nothin That Compares 2 U’ produced by Swingbeat dons L.A. & Babyface. The album sold over half a million copies worldwide.
After a brief promotional tour, the band went into hiatus and never recorded another album together.
– 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.