Classics: Luther Vandross & Janet Jackson w Bell Biv DeVoe & Ralph Tresvant – The Best Things In Life Are Free (Perspective Records)
“The best things in life are free…” Not necessarily a point I subscribe to at first sight. Most likely coz’ I’ve always tended to consider that things given for free have no real intrinsic value.
Sounding like an unlikely response to the Beatles’ ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’… ‘The Best Things In Life Are Free’ pretty much encaptured the main theme of the 1992 ‘Mo’ Money’ movie. Strangely enough, the film, which starred the Wayans brothers and Stacey Dash, received mixed if not negative reviews. Although I remember I had a good time and big laughs watching it back then. And so did its soundtrack as if it wasn’t already enough… An album which, according to Adam Greenberg on All Music, was “a perfect blend for a fan of the early 90’s R&B sound, but doesn’t really meet the same standard as music of later years.”
No need telling you how I tend to disagree with such arguments. First, because how could you have an idea of the standard of future music at a specific time? And even more, when not being a musician yourself! And second, because the proper of music and its production has always been to evolve along with time. Besides, does it make a 60’s Sam Cooke‘s song or a 70’s Barry White hit soundin’ like sh.. today??? With the exact same applying to ‘The Best Things In Life Are Free’…
So bullocks, Mr Greenberg! If your standards are those of a big majority of today’s R&B production, then I gladly leave them to you, Sir!
25 years have gone, by the time writing these lines. And ‘The Best Things In Life Are Free’ still have this irresistible feel. With Luther Vandross jammin’ his ass off along with Janet Jackson, Ralph Tresvant and Bell Biv DeVoe. And this, in a quite unusual vein for the period with Jam & Lewis in charge of the production. Nuff said, huh?
‘The Best Things In Life Are Free… I guess I understand where the scenarists are coin’ from. “The best things in life are free…” Still not convinced about this assertion though…
A performer, but also a songwriter, he collaborated with countless artists and bands. From Quincy Jones to Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway (‘Back Together Again’), Chic (‘Dance, Dance, Dance’), Chaka Khan or Diana Ross. But also Charme with whom he did a cover version of Toto‘s ‘Georgy Porgy’. Not to mention Jocelyn Brown Sharon Redd and David Bowie. And I’m not even talkin’ about his activities as producer along with bassist Marcus Miller and sound engineer Ray Bardani. The latter leading him to craft Cheryl Lynn‘s ‘Instant Love’ then Aretha Franklin‘s ‘Jump To It’ and ‘Get It Right’ albums in 1982 and 1983. This resulting in gems such as ‘Instant Love’ for Lynn. And ‘Jump To It’, ‘(It’s Just) Your Love’ and ‘Get It Right’ for Franklin.
Despite a couple of album releases as simply Luther, Vandross would get his breakthrough as the lead singer of various tracks on Change‘s ‘The Glow Of Love’ debut-album back in 1980. He refused contributing to its follow-up though because of a financial disagreement with its executive producer, Jacques Fred Petrus. Although he would sing backing vocals on The BB&Q Band‘s eponymous debut album from the same management team. From then on, he signed a solo record deal with Epic. Going straight to the position #1 in the charts with the title cut from his ‘Never Too Much’ debut-album the year after.
‘Never Too Much’ opened an impressive list of successes which established Vandross as the #1 R&B singer for two decades. The man varying the pleasures upon different moods. From ballads to R&B grooves and eventually hybrids such as ‘Give Me The Reason’ back in 1986. Not to mention his (unofficial) flirt with House vibes as Big L on ‘Heaven’. This with remixing work courtesy of Tommy Musto in 2002.
Among his masterpieces, ‘The Night I Fell In Love’, ‘My Sensitivity (Gets In The Way)’, ‘I Wanted Your Love’, ‘It’s Over Now’ and ‘Power Of Love’. Not to mention ‘The Rush’ which David Morales remixed it an outstanding way and ‘Always And Forever’ to name a few. Vandross also happened to share the duties back in 1992 with Janet Jackson, Bell, Biv, DeVoe and Ralph Tresvant. Delivering the boiling ‘The Best Things In Life Are Free’. A cut which got extra exposure as a part of the ‘Mo’ Money’ OST with production work courtesy of Jam & Lewis. Meanwhile, some of you might also remember his collaboration with Masters At Work on ‘Are You Using Me’ back in 1998. A track which, for some reason, only saw the light as a Promo 12″ on Virgin.
An unreleased cut of his – ‘Love It Love It’ – which he co-wrote with Hubert Eaves III eventually saw the light as a part of a posthumous Greatest Hits package by the end of 2014.
Luther Vandross has sold more than 35 million records worldwide and received 8 Grammy Awards.
He sadly died from diabetes and hypertension at the JFK Medical Center in Edison, NJ on Jul. 01, 2005, at the age of 54.
– Gary, IN native Janet Jackson is the youngest of probably the famous family of artists in the world. She admittedly first thought of becoming a horse racing jockey or entertainment lawyer. But she ended up following the path of her brothers and sisters. She started acting at the age of 10 in the variety show ‘The Jacksons’ in 1976. Six years later, her father and manager, Joseph Jackson, arranged a contract for her with A&M Records.
Janet Jackson released her eponymous debut-album soon after. Collaborating with producers such as Angela Winbush, René Moore and Leon F. Sylvers III among others. Two years after she delivered its follow-up – ‘Dream Street’ – without generating any greater following. This leading her soon after to take her distance from her dad and team up with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. This would mark the start of a fruitful relation. Beginning with the release of ‘Control’, her third album, which sold over 10 million copies worldwide. Meanwhile achieving cross-over Pop appeal, but also establishing a strong foundation within the urban market. ‘Control’ spanned five top 5 singles. From ‘What Have You Done for Me Lately’ to ‘When I Think of You’among others. With the latter becoming her first number 1 hit on the Hot 100.
‘Rhythm Nation 1814’ saw the light in September 1989. It sold over 20 million copies. It became the only album to achieve 7 top 5 singles. Eventually producing number one hits in 3 different calendar years. Featuring gems such as ‘Escapade’, ‘Miss You Much’ and ‘Rhythm Nation’ among others.
With her recording contract with A&M Records coming to an end 1991, Jackson signed a multi-million dollar deal with Virgin. Meanwhile, she teamed up the year after with Luther Vandross, Ralph Tresvant and Bell Biv Devoe. Delivering the memorable ‘The Best Things In Life Are Free’ from the ‘Mo’ Money’ OST.
‘Janet’, her fifth album, marked her debut on her new label in May 1993. It sold over 14 million copies. Lead single ‘That’s The Way Love Goes’ won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Song, toppin’the Billboard Hot 100 during 8 consecutive weeks. Among its highlights, ‘Again’, ‘If’ and ‘Any Time, Any Place’. Meanwhile, Janet made her film debut in ‘Poetic Justice’ two months later.
Janet, who’d started suffering for depression, released her sixth album – ‘The Velvet Rope’, in 1997. ‘Together Again’ spent a 46 weeks record on the Hot 100. Meanwhile other cuts such as ‘Got ‘Til It’s Gone’, ‘I Get Lonely’ and ‘Together Again’ strenghtened her high selling artist status. Not to mention ‘Go Deep’ which received various remixing treatments, beginning with the memorable one of Masters At Work.
On the heels of her ‘The Velvet Rope World Tour’, Janet collaborated with various artists. From Shaggy to BlackStreet and Busta Rhymes (on ‘What’s It Gonna Be?!’). She appeared in her second film, ‘Nutty Professor II: The Klumps’, in July 2000. The year after, she delivered her seventh album by the likes of ‘All For You’. Its title track, built upon a sample of Change‘s ‘The Glow Of Love’, setting a record for the highest debut by a single that was not commercially available at the time. Among its other highlights, ‘Son Of A Gun (I Betcha Think This Song Is About You)’. A track which borrowed elements of Carly Simon‘s ‘You’re So Vain’, it featured the latter, with remixing work courtesy of Missy Elliott.
Titled after her middle name, Janet‘s eighth studio, ‘Damita Jo’, came up in March 2004, right after the Super Bowl XXXVIII affair. Regarded as one of the most controversial television events in history after Janet‘s right breast got exposed to a 140 million viewers, it had a huge negative impact. Affecting the sales of not only ‘Damita Jo’, but also the other albums that followed. Nothing would be the same anymore for her from then.
– A native of Boston, MA, Ralph Tresvant started performing at local talent shows along with Bobby Brown, Ricky Bell and Michael Bivins. This being how he and his partners came to the attention of Brooke Payne who gave them the name New Edition to signify they were a new edition of the Jackson 5. Therefore responding to Maurice Starr‘s search at the time. The latter signing them on his Streetwise Records label. Meanwhile a fifth member by the likes of Ronnie DeVoe (Payne‘s nephew) joined the band.
Featuring gems like ‘Popcorn Love’ and its title track, their 1993 ‘Candy Girl’ album ideally put them on the map. After a dispute over money, New Edition left Starr‘s management and record label though. Soon after signing a new deal with MCA then releasing their self-titled second album. Meanwhile solidifying their position with the Top Five smash hit ‘Cool It Now’ then ‘Mr Telephone Man’ with Tresvant takin’ the lead vocals.
A third album – ‘All For Love’ – followed, featuring another hit by the likes of ‘Count Me Out’. But the story of the band would get through period of turbulence. With Bobby Brown voted out by his pairs after behavorial problems back in December 1985. Then the first rumors of Ralph Tresvant goin’ solo. This bringin’ his pals to recruit a new lead singer by the likes of Johnny Gill, although Tresvant managed to stay with them at the end. Their 1988 ‘Heartbreak’ album marking the start of their collaboration with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. This resulting in an impressive series of 5 hit singles. From ‘If It Isn’t Love’ to ‘Can You Stand The Rain’ and ‘N.E. Heartbreak’ among others.
Following Bobby Brown‘s example, the group went on a hiatus. Leavin’ the time to his members to release their own projects. With Ralph Tresvant goin’ further way with producers Jam & Lewis. This resulting in the release of his eponymous debut-album back in 1990. An effort which spanned ‘Sensitivity’, his biggest success under his own guise. But also ‘Stone Cold Gentleman’ with a rap from fellow New Edition member Bobby Brown.
Tresvant came back as a solo artist in 1993. This resulting in the release of his ‘It’s Goin’ Down’ album featuring the Marvin Gaye-esque ‘Who’s The Mack’ produced by Jam & Lewis.
One could also find Tresvant‘s vocals on various film soundtracks. From ‘Mo’ Money’ (‘Money Can’t Buy You Love’ and ‘The Best Things In Life Are Free’). To ‘The Preacher’s Wife’ (‘Somebody Bigger Than You And I”) along with Bobby Brown, Faith Evans, Johnny Gill and Monica. And he also made a cameo appearance in ‘House Party 2’ delivering one single for its soundtrack by the likes of ‘Yo Baby Yo’.
Tresvant made his return as a solo artist back in 2006. Putting an end to a 13 year hiatus with his third album – ‘Rizz Wa Faire’ – on Xzault Media Group.