Fri. Oct. 22, 2021

Jody Watley with Eric B. & Rakim – Friends

Classics: Jody Watley with Eric B. & Rakim – Friends (MCA)

No matter what… All of those who’ve experienced it should tell you how hard it may be gettin’ back on your feet after a break up. Be it in regards to a love affair as to an artistical relationship. And even more when the latter has brought you to the upper level… Such as it was the case for Jody Watley. And this when she happened to share the duties with Howard Hewett and Jeffrey Daniel back in the days of Shalamar.

How not to think those three were meant to work together when referring to the impressive amount of classics they’ve brought to light? And how to to think of the challenge Jody had to face when deciding to go her own way??? In other words, building a new identity for herself as a solo artist…

No need sayin’ along with time, she pretty much managed to succeed. With thanks to a strong temper. But also an obvious artistic vision as to what she aimed to become.

Should the boiling and most likely revolutionary ‘Friends’ be considered as an allusion to her past as a member of Shalamar? The response most definitely belongs to her. Meanwhile kinda hard not to think the 30 months she spent in the U.K. after leavin’ Shalamar didn’t have an impact on the way she would conceive her music. As hard not to think ‘Friends’ didn’t inspire some British producers. And more precisely those who paved the way of the Brit-Soul scene…

With production work by the likes of Prince‘s former bassist André Cymone (her former husband)… ‘Friends’ stands among the hightlights of her 1989 ‘Larger Than Life’ album along with ‘Real Love’. Acting as a pioneer when comin’ to blend R&B and Hip-Hop while teamin’ up with Rappers Eric B & Rakim. A song which aptly gets a new dimension in the days we’re living, surrounded by the virtuality of cyber social networking…

What’s the value of your vinyl record?

A quick look at Jody Watley‘s career tends to speak for itself. Showin’ how this talented lady has always had a clear idea as to what she wanted… If not what she didn’t! From her early days as a teen which would lead her to join Howard Hewett and Jeffrey Daniel as a member of Shalamar. Thus scoring classics such as ‘I Can Make You Feel Good’ and ‘The Second Time Around’. But also ‘For The Lover In You’ and ‘A Night To Remember’. This with production work by the likes of Leon F Sylvers III. To her sudden although already expected departure from the band back in 1983. Most likely due to artistic conflicts and disagreements within the group. Meanwhile having limited success getting songs she wrote recorded…

After 30 months in England, Jody returned to America, firmly decided to establish her identity as a solo artist. A goal she would soon achieve with the release of her eponymous debut album on MCA back in 1987. And, in the meantime, the memorable ‘Looking For A New Love’ (its lead single). And eventually duetting with the late George Michael on ‘Learn To Say No’ with production work by the likes of Bernard Edwards of the Chic fame.

Her follow up – ‘Larger Than Life’ – sold more than 4 million copies. Featuring gems such as ‘Real Love’. But also the influential ‘Friends’ featuring Eric B & Rakim. The first multi-format hit single which happened the formula of a Pop/R&B singer featuring a guest rapper with the custom full 16-bar verses and bridge concept.

Standing at the top, Watley nevertheless wanted to broaden her musical spectrum. Meanwhile lookin’ for more introspective themes as opposed to be seen as a Dance icon. ‘Affairs Of The Heart’, her third album, only had moderate success. She pursued this way though, releasing ‘Intimacy’ in 1993, meanwhile showing a real sensibility. Not enough though to be beating the current trends at the time geared towards the New Jack Swing sound.

Running on her own after her departure from MCA soon after the release of ‘Intimacy’, Jody went back under the spotlights in 1998. This with the release of of sixth album (‘Flower’). Including cuts such as ‘Off The Hook’ which received a remix courtesy of Masters At Work. The latter producing ‘I Love To Love’ which saw her sharing the duties with Roy Ayers 2 years after. ‘Saturday Night Experience’, the title track of her album of the likes seeing Ron Trent delivering one of his best remixes ever in 2001.

Always willing to explore new territories, Jody released her 2006 ‘The Makeover’ album with a myriad of luminaries. From King Britt to 4Hero. Not to mention Ron Trent and Mark De Clive-Lowe. This being her latest effort to date as a solo artist.

More recently, after becoming the legal registered owner of the Shalamar brand, she returned with two new partners. Although under the Shalamar Reloaded guise. A name she then shortened to SRL to avoid confusion. The band counting 3 single releases to date by the likes of ‘Slow Dance’ and ‘O.R.I.G.I.N.A.L.’. Not to mention the freshly squeezed ‘The Mood’, with a debut-album in the pipeline…

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