Personnel: Stephanie Mills (background vocals); Michael Sembello (guitars, background vocals); David Wolfert, Buzz Feiten, Thom Rotella, Carlos Rios (guitars); Greg Phillingaines (piano, keyboards); Richard Ree (piano); Richard Tee (keyboards); Ed Walsh (synthesizer, bass synthesizer); Danny Sembello, Nyle Steiner, Ian Underwood, Johnny Mandel (synthesizer); Ed Greene, John Robinson , Carlos Vega (drums); Victor Feldman, Lenny Castro (percussion); Myrna Smith, Cruz Sembello, Lani Groves, Peggie Blue, Yvonne Lewis, Frank Floyd (background vocals).
Liner Note Author: Kevin Goins.
Recording information: Automated Sound Studios, New York City, NY; Cherokee Recording Studios, Los Angles, CA; Record Plant, Los Angeles, CA; The Hit Factory, New York City, NY.
Photographers: Bill King ; Glen Christensen.
The soulful songstress is at her finest on this highly entertaining nine-song set. The funky, jazzy "My Body" brings traces of early house music to the table with its feverish vocals, keyboards, and Latin-spiced percussion, while the cool and breezy -- yet lyrically straight to the point -- ballad "Do You Love Him" features one of Mills' most expertly delivered performances on record. She also turns in some enticing vocal interplay with singer Peggi Blu on the clever "His Name Is Michael." Unlike later "confrontational" duets by Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston ("It Isn't, It Wasn't, It Ain't Never Gonna Be") or Brandy and Monica ("The Boy Is Mine") dealing with two-timing boyfriends, both the lyrics and Mills and Blu's interpretation give the matter a lighthearted, humorous spin that is oh so appealing. Two other fine ballads pop up in the grabbing, the Prince-penned "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?" (R&B number 12; also released by Prince as B-side in 1982) and the romantic "Eternal Love" (recorded the same year by Whitney Houston on co-writer Paul Jabara's Paul Jabara & Friends album, also on Casablanca). "Pilot Error" (R&B number 12) and the cute "Here I Am," meanwhile, are fun dance entries. Every song on Merciless is solid, vocally and production-wise. Producers Gary Klein and David Wolfert and Phil Ramone bring out the best of the songs and help bring back the vocal energy that had been missing from much of the material on Mills' two preceding albums. It's definitely her best album for Casablanca, as well as one of her best overall. ~ Justin M. Kantor