Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1091

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Toni Braxton and Babyface: Love, Marriage & Divorce (Motown Records)

Toni Braxton and Babyface: Love Marriage and Divorce (Motown)



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UK release date 17.03.2014

When Toni Braxton announced she was retiring from music, I was one of those slightly sad that we wouldnât get to hear those deep alto tones anymore. But I knew if there was one man who can turn her around it would be Kenny âBabyfaceâ Edmonds, and thatâs exactly what he did, and the result is pretty darn good too.

Besides producing many of Toniâs hits, he was one of the go-to producers in the heady days of 90âs and noughties R&B Soul, so I was very interested what an album of duets would sound like it. She has the breathy deep tones, whilst he has tenor that often goes into a falsetto; it could go very right or very wrong. âHurt Youâ was the lead single, and if you have heard or seen the video then you know that these two work very well together. Neither have visibly aged since the 90s and you wonder why they never made an album together in all this time.

Unlike other duet albums this one has no covers - thank goodness! Just lots of good and pleasing songs; although from the songs this is one jacked-up relationship! If they are not fighting, wanting to cheat, breaking up and getting together, they are not doing much else. My favourite song âSweatâ is sexy, sensual, and all about sorting out your relationship problems not through shouting at each other but in the bed, and it hits all the right notes. Where the pair really comes alive is on the stripped back and very melodic âWhere Did We Go Wrongâ. This is classic Babyface sound, but whatâs even sweeter is hearing Toni use more of her upper range that she doesnât often use. A really beautiful and plaintive song, all about taking stock of a relationship and trying to repair any damage that may have been done. Besides the duets Babyface and Toni have solo tracks on the album to put forward their side of the relationship drama, or maybe just to remind us that they are artists in their own rights. On âHope Youâre Okayâ Babyface is laid back cool as always, and telling a girl he really loves her, but he cant be with her anymore so itâs over, but he hopes sheâs ok- simples! Toni on the other hand is not so cool on her solo track. The opening lines to âI Wishâ are âI wish sheâd break your heart like you did me; I hope youâre unhappy. And I hope she gives you a disease, so that you will see, but not enough to make you die but only make you cryâ- ouch! And in her second solo song she says âIâd rather than be broke than be with youâ.

Moving swiftly on from disease catching and being broke, the rest of the album has a lot of good tracks for fans of 90s R&B. The pair have done a good job of capturing the essence of that heyday, and presenting a range of issues that couples face. âReunitedâ, âTake It Backâ and the aforementioned âSweatâ are all great tracks. The only slightly disjointed track is the dance oriented âWant Me Backâ, but I am sure there some club kids that will enjoy it. The album closer âThe D-Wordâ is another breezy and sensual affair telling the story of the ending of their love story.

As much as I really like this album, I wonder if it will stand the test of time like the great duet albums of yesteryear. Will it be up there alongside the likes of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack, Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross, Alexander OâNeal and Cherelle, Kindred Family Soul? Will this album gather new fans to both artists? Who knows? I would have liked for there to be some more live instruments or stripped back melodies, but that aside I was quite impressed with the album. Like SWV did with their âI Missed Usâ album, Toni Braxton and Babyface have shown that your can bring the 90s into the modern times, and not still make it sound fresh, interesting, and something that fans will be pleased with.
Words Richard 'Ricardito' Ashie

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