Saturday, April 22, 2023

"I'll Be Good to You" by Quincy Jones featuring Ray Charles & Chaka Khan

Grammy Alert!
Song#:  4108
Date:  11/18/1989
Debut:  86
Peak:  18
Weeks:  16
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  The last time Quincy Jones release an album under his name was 1981's The Dude. It was a #10 Pop/#3 R&B platinum hit that would go on to win three Grammys for Jones (plus one for James Ingram). On the heels of that success, Jones would work with Michael Jackson on Thriller and then Bad. In between those was the charity single "We Are the World" and a few other projects. In other words, it was a busy stretch for Jones that left little time to do a project of his own. That would change starting in '88 when Jones began to assemble his next effort. It seems he had a vision of melding the various styles of music he had been a part of throughout his career, such as jazz, soul, and pop, with the current sounds of the day, i.e. rap, new jack swing, etc. He also wanted to bring together artists from his jazz days with established pop/R&B superstars and new hot artists. The project would be called Back on the Block and it would feature a diverse list of artists including Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis, El DeBarge, Barry White, Tevin Campbell, Ice-T, and Big Daddy Kane. This first single would be issued out and it would featured vocals by Ray Charles and Chaka Khan. It would be a #1 hit at R&B and Dance while making the Pop Top 20 and getting to #30 AC. A second single, "The Secret Garden (Sweet Seduction Suite)," featured a quartet of vocal stars (James Ingram, Al B. Sure!, El DeBarge, and Barry White). It would become a #1 R&B/#31 Pop gold seller. A third R&B #1 (#75 Pop), "Tomorrow (A Better You, Better Me)," was headed up by Tevin Campbell. The hits would help send the album to #1 R&B/#9 Pop. It would be a platinum seller that would win seven Grammys including Album of the Year. "I'll Be Good to You" would win a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Duo or Group."

ReduxReview:  The ingredients were great. A classic 70s hit, two superstar singers, and a brilliant arranger/producer. This should have been a slam-dunk. Yet it wasn't. I found it mired in late-80s new jack production that overwhelmed the vocals. Now, Chaka Khan is a vocalist that can rise above any production din and make the song better, however this is one instance where she could not. Weirdly, Charles comes out better, but I think Jones wanted to spotlight him more than Khan. Still, it just didn't mesh and what should have been a killer track ended up a bit of a mess. I have to say that I felt the same way about most of the album. I thought Jones had a great vision, but overall the song selection was not terribly strong and the production heavy handed. Songs from The Dude are still getting airplay today, but when was the last time you heard anything from Back on the Block? I believe it won Album of the Year due to respect for Jones, the concept, and the fact that it had very weak competition. It typically ranks low on worst-to-best Grammy Album of the Year lists. While it was a bit of a big deal at the time, these days the LP has kind of been forgotten.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This was a remake of a song originally recorded by The Johnson Brothers. Their 1976 version served as their debut single and it would be a gold seller that got to #3 Pop/#1 R&B. The producer of that song and the Brothers' debut album was none other than Quincy Jones. Jones would revive the song for Back on the Block pairing music legends Ray Charles and Chaka Khan for the vocals. Jones would produce four consecutive platinum selling albums for The Johnson Brothers that include two more R&B #1s, "Strawberry Letter 23" (#5 Pop) and "Stomp!" (#7 Pop).  2) Jones' next mainstream effort would be 1995's Q's Juke Joint. It would once again feature a diverse list of performers including Gloria Estefan, Phil Collins, Brandy, Babyface, Bono, Queen Latifah, Heavy D, and Tone Loc. It would be a platinum seller that reached #1 R&B/#31 Pop. Jones would only receive one Grammy nod for the LP, however it would win the Grammy for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.


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