Q - 7/95, p.1154 Stars
- Excellent - "...Brownstone pull off the difficult trick of sounding lush and sophisticated and yet coming on like round-the-way girls."
Brownstone: Nichole Gilbert (vocals, percussion); Maxee, Mimi (vocals).
Additional personnel includes: Gordon Chambers (vocals, piano); Dewey Browder III, Shawn Lilly (various instruments); Marlon McClain, Torrel "Civil Right" Ruffin (guitar); John Myles O'Brien (guitar, keyboards, programming); Keith Lewis (keyboards, programming); Ida Bodin (acoustic bass); James Strong (electric bass); P. Dennis Mitchell, Eduardo Rickets (percussion); Jorge "G-Man" Corazo (programming).
Producers: Jorge "G-Man" Corante, Nichole Gilbert (tracks 1, 8); Dave "Jam" Hall (tracks 2-3); Soulshock, Karlin (track 4); Troy Taylor, Charles Farrar (track 5); Darin Whittington (track 6); Ken Kessie (track 7); John Myles O'Brien, Nichole Gilbert, Jonah (track 9); Gerald Baillergeau (track 10); Dewey Browder III (track 11); Jerry Greenberg, Nichole Gilbert, Gordon Chambers (track 12).
Engineers: Keston Wright (tracks 1, 8); Jay Lean (track 4); Ken Kessie (track 7); Charlie Watts (track 12).
All songs written or co-written by Nichole Gilbert except "I Can't Tell You Why" (Timothy B./Don Henley/Glenn Frey). Samples include "Spellbound" (as performed by K-Solo), "Kamakazi" (as performed by Prince Jammy) and "The Paycheck" (as performed by James Brown).
"If You Love Me" was nominated for a 1996 Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal.
If vocals still count for something in today's R&B world, then Brownstone-- and their silky debut on Michael Jackson's MJJ label--are way ahead of the pack. Despite the fact that the shelves are cluttered with female-R&B-vocal-wannabes, Maxee, Mimi and Nicci prove themselves more able than the rest by infusing actual emotion and feeling on each number they perform. Faking it, they're not.
The success of Brownstone's first single, "If You Love Me," established them as one of the hottest new groups on the scene. With its smooth R&B-cum-dance feel, the song had the potential to break both in the clubs and on the radio; and the heavy rotation of the video helped them gain quick exposure with a pop audience. Under the same musical supervision as "If You Love Me" (provided by Dave "Jam" Hall), "Grapevyne" unites harmony with a slower tune, while the rest of the cuts feature varying, smoother productions. The songs are all slightly related--mostly in theme--but there is enough variety to keep the listener's interest throughout. "Sometimes Dancin'" has an underlying reggae beat to accent its optimistic chorus ("Sometimes dancin' can make you fall in love"), but the surprise comes when Brownstone illustrate their ability to flip the vocal in a dancehall style, further complementing the song's musical intentions.
The ladies rarely work themselves up in a lather, choosing a more subtle path to passionate exchanges. "Party Wit Me," for instance, implores the listener/love-interest to "relax your mind." And while Brownstone's come-ons may be calmer than those of their peers, FROM THE BOTTOM UP is never boring.
The Los Angeles-based R&B vocal trio Brownstone released its first album From the Bottom Up (on Michael Jackson's label) in 1995. A solid debut, From the Bottom Up showcases the group's considerable vocal talents, but Brownstone is somewhat distinctive in that the group's members also had a hand in writing their own material. Predictably, the album's songs alternate between R&B funk workouts and slinky slow jams, but the vocals rise above the material, making the album a delightful listen. The opener, "Party Wit' Me," gets things off to a funky start, and the hip-shakers "Pass the Lovin'" and "True to Me" prove Brownstone, unlike many R&B vocal groups, doesn't rely too heavily on ballads. Fortunately, the album's slow numbers are just as strong as the more up-tempo material; the group's Gospel influences are evident in the album's hit single, "If You Love Me" (a slow-burning slice of R&B vocal heaven) and especially in the slow, sad "Don't Cry for Me." Brownstone's unlikely cover of the Eagles' hit ballad "I Can't Tell You Why" is one of the album's most successful tracks, as is the beautiful, piano-led "Half of You." From the Bottom Up is somewhat undermined by an overabundance of producers (of the album's 12 tunes, the group uses no less than ten producers/production teams). But this doesn't take away from the quality of the songs and the solid vocal performances. ~ William Cooper