Friday, May 27, 2016

ALL-4-ONE - On And On (1998)


All aboard for this ALL-4-ONE soul train! My visit with the renowned and hugely-popular California quartet has been long overdue. Except for the occasional plays of such memorable mega-hits as "I Swear" and "I Can Love You Like That" on the contemporary easy-listening radio channels, I've practically left these guys high and dry for the past.....what.....decade? Somehow, I had never made it beyond their first two albums, but now that my music-listening activities have shifted back to the 90's the past few days, I thought it would be a good time to check in on some of these older tunes by Jamie Jones and company again after all these years. Better to start with the the earliest ones first, I decided, and 1998's "On And On" soon became the selection for my music companion tonight. Turns out this was a quite a superb selection, and after the total blast of a good time that I enjoyed in the hour plus that it entertained my ears, I do indeed plan to play this album—just as the title hints—'on and on'! It was vintage ALL-4-ONE alright the instant that distinctively jazzed-up instrumental riffs signaled the start of the opening track, "Whatever You Want", instantly bringing to mind how "I Can Love You Like That" kicks off. So refreshing to hear their collective voices here, and I was reminded that they totally conquer these grand ballad performances where they show off their individual voices. ' I'll buy you the stars for whatever they're worth ': with earth-shattering words of promise like that, what lady wouldn't want to be a part of their world? Then I was reminded of their sublime acapella talents when they open up the follow-up track, "One Summer Night". Excellent, just excellent! I could only readily recall one other acapella tune where this quartet sounded as good without any backing production: "So Much In Love". Dig the vocals big time, particularly the guys providing the deep bass all throughout. They would dazzle me with more of that fine acapella later on the short piece "Fear No More". In a day where tender love songs have been the predominant theme going for me, I found further tender delight in receiving the comforting tune, "I Will Be Right Here", plus the exotically fluid "Smile Like Mona Lisa" (the most beautiful smile isn't just on a famous painting, as the lyrics show), "How To Love Again" (the emotions pouring though the words to this song are so tangible that you could almost feel them soothing you like a blanket) and the amazing song of dedication that is "I Cross My Heart", a moving and masterful performance given alongside the powerful guest female vocalist. This has also been a day of songs that haunt the mind and soul in some way, and I found another such haunting piece in the moments of reflection and guidance that is "Time To Come Home". Has a spiritual feel to it, and I must say that the ALL-4-ONE vocal harmony here is heavenly! Nearly forgot that these guys can flash some versatility with a touch of hip r&b swing to their music repertoire. "Somebody 2 Love" has got some serious groovin' goin' on; plenty of bounce to the beat with a rather classy old-school sound forming the backdrop for a song that reminds the listener that wants and needs that special person in his or her life. But something totally different and unexpected by this California crew jumped out at me heading into Track #9's "If You Want Me": an electrifying funky dance-pop arrangement that I adored instantly! The excitement of the production is in stark contrast to the seriousness and grave nature of the song's theme, the songwriter pleading for answers from the lady to seems to be unsure about her feelings for him. A rather sad song, but surely a gem! I'd get excited again three tracks later on "Keep It Goin' On", as something else totally different and unexpected greeted me: a full-on house jam! Really? ALL-4-ONE, a fine, soulful r&b group like itself doing house music tunes with disco-groovy dance rhythms? Get outta here! Well, it was the 90's, the era when house music and Eurodance music reigned supreme, but coming from ALL-4-ONE, it definitely qualified as my latest 'Music Surprise Of The Day'! Probably tops everything for that prestigious nomination I've heard this entire month! Then just when I thought that was surprising..... I'd get another surprise thrill taking in another deliciously upbeat jam with a hip r&b swing: "Secrets". The familiar synthesized vamps and the rock guitars could only have been sampled from the 80's golden oldie originally performed by YES called "Owner Of A Lonely Heart". So "Secrets", then, is virtually like the hip-hop/r&b remix of it with different lyrics (he's got a secret desire to sex the lady up in this ALL-4-ONE reinvented remake), plus a slick rap segment laid out midway through the song. Then that third surprise would be the 'Classic Radio Remix' of "One Summer Night" that I this time waited until the very end to indulge in instead of giving in to the temptation of jumping down to it right after playing the original non-mixed version. Excitement struck again; I would be dazzled by even more super-charged house-jammin' greatness! That gave me two ALL-4-ONE dance thrillers to add to my 'Energy Mix' playlist tonight! I've highlighted just about every stop along this soul train express, but I've yet to give honorable mention to another dazzling pleasure: "Until You Go". Seeing as I was already on a feel-good high following the thrills provided by "Keep It Goin' On", this sparkly, dreamy charmer (why was I thinking about something I heard by THE BEE GEES while listening to the music here?) kept me on that feel-good high, Jamie Jones and company making every moment of this song a happy one with their lasting words of wanting to hold the woman until she's gone forever. Not gone forever, however, is my love for these guys, and all it took was putting on this "On And On" album for me and my ears to forever stay determined to maintain that lasting relationship with them:

1. Whatever You Want
2. One Summer Night
3. I Will Be Right Here
4. Fear No More
5. I Cross My Heart (Featuring Joanne Pennock)
6. Smile Like Mona Lisa
7. No Doubt
8. Time To Come Home
9. If You Want Me
10. How To Love Again
11. Somebody 2 Love
12. Keep It Goin' On
13. Until You Go
14. Secrets
15. One Summer Night (The Classic Radio Remix)

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