Epic Records, 1996
REVIEW BY: JB
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/02/1997
I waited a solid hour overtime for him in the freezing Seoul cold outside of Tower Records Kangnam, in line for an autographing; to this day I harbor deep resentment to that fact. So call me a tiny bit vengeful when I say, this is not a B review.
The thing was, he was incredibly shy; when I asked "Hey Face, how's your baby?" He kinda got real embarrassed and said "He's fine." The reason this modesty doesn't seem in character is that La Face is one of the most influencial people in the Industry. He's worked with everyone from Chaka Khan to Celine Dion and has more chart toppers than Diane Warren and perhaps Clive Davis.
What's even more dismaying is that this attitude carries over to his album ( his, as in, he actually sings main vocal in it). While some people might find this bashfulness as cute in "Every Time I Close My Eyes", I find the slurring and halfhearted technique to be ... sleepy. This album is a lulluby collection.
Babyface's lyrical rhythms are top notch in every track, but I've always criticised him for the lack of gut in his music. There are no daring high notes, no dramatic low notes, just bedroom noises that go halfway. He doesn't know where to go with his own voice and stays on a certain plane from beginning to end.
"Every Time I Close My Eyes" opens the album with three big names; aside from Face, there's Kenny G in the bridge and Mariah Carey in the background. Both KG and MC know their worth; both left to arrange their own roles in the song, they give themselves ample oppertunity to be heard. Their egos live up to the overall output; the bridge section and background vocals make the song more textured, and it's texture that is lacking in this album.
And let's face it; it's this star power that makes this all-star album good. The Eric Clapton guitar in "Talk to Me"; it makes all the difference in the track. He tries to live up to Stevie Wonder's passionate delivery in "How Come How Long", but does not do the conscience-raising track justice. From Boyz II Men, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman join the already talented team of backing vocals and make an all-too-brief (and all-too-needed) appearance. And of course, LL Cool J in "This Is For The Lover in You"; that rap brings some substance into the sound of the album.
But there are good tracks. "Simple Days" is a song anyone can relate to; a certain summer we wish we could live through again. I don't know how, but it's captured; I would give Babyface credit but there are three other people who wrote this song with him so now I'm not too sure. "Seven Seas" is also a good track, and would make a good music video. Like it's mentioned in the reviewers' bios, I've lived in enough (too many) countries to know the feeling of exotic discovery (accompanied by 12 hour jetlag and a 12 month culture shock).
And, of course, "The Day". Even in profound revelation, this man is shy. But sparse instruments and a highlighted vocal makes this song move you; its simplicity and perfect happiness is also impossible to ignore.
Had insecurity made Babyface make such a star-studded album, even if he's likely aware that he will get bashed for it? Or is he getting payback for all the behind-the-scenes work he did? Either way, he shouldn't have done it. Three tracks are enough to convince me that this man can do fine by himself and this handholding the other stars are doing for him is not healthy towards the growth of an artist. And above all: be on time. You never know if one of those skinny little four-eyed guys shivering in their parkas are actually music reviewers at heart.