Monday, March 6, 2017

MANHATTANS-Sweet Talk (1989)


Rockin' through the 80's and groovin' through the 80's—that's the musical combination I've been blending together for me and my ears as of late. Besides reliving the wonderful sounds of the hair-band rock era, my 80's re-discovery joyride has seen me satisfying some long-standing curiosity about the popular soul groups of the 60's and 70's. While the older generation continues to rave about those memorably golden hits that these groups were famous for in the decades before my time and that remain a staple on the quiet storm radio airwaves, I've often wondered what became of those soul groups once the 80's arrived. As I love a good music mystery, I've been taking it upon myself to investigate and find out what I've missed out on. Among the groups I've been targeting is THE MANHATTANS, the legendary voices behind the timeless classics "Kiss And Say Goodbye" and "Shining Star". Had never heard what their music was like in this years after those classics, so I changed that with my acquisition of their rare 1989 album, "Sweet Talk". And oh how sweet it is! A sweet reminder of why I miss 80's soul and r&b was served up on a silver platter with the upbeat opening title track, where these gentlemen deliver the reminder that talk is cheap and that love needs to be shown and felt rather than to be expressed only in empty words of promise. Somewhat ironic, then, that the follow-up, "No One But You", is all about the songwriter's serious acknowledgement that the lady is the one and only that makes him shine, the gravity of that promise supported well by the rather unsettling ambiance and the suspenseful, semi-new jack swing rhythm in the background. I felt a 'Slow Jam Of The Night' candidate coming on with "Don't Let Go", which has the loveliest of musical arrangements (in fact, I get a slight sense of a Far eastern-inspired sound here) and keeps me hooked with the emphasized ' don't...let...go ' delivered in the chorus. "This Love Is Real": an upbeat celebration of romance that stands as a further good reason why I miss the sweet sounds of 80's r&b and soul! "Hot Like An Oven": The last time I heard this exact phrase in a song, it was in the Marvin Gaye classic, "Sexual Healing". Just last night, actually, while I was driving around and listening to an assortment of throwback jams on the radio. I really like the words of the chorus: ' just like an oven, I'm really gonna need your lovin' tonight '. It occurred to me that this particular MANHATTANS song and Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing", in fact, share the same theme. Shades of the vintage MANHATTANS—at least, from the point-of-view of a child of the 80's—cast down on the second half of this album, beginning with the warming, tender breeze that is "Why You Wanna Love Me Like That?". The gentlemen then slow it all the way down in their determination to clam the woman's love on "I Won't Stop", followed by the heart-melting "Lady I've Been Waiting For", their earnest plea to rekindle that heat in the oven on "Try Love Again" (a marvelous performance by the lead man of the group, who goes about this one solo for the most part) and the silky seductiveness that is the concluding piece, "Just A Matter Of Time", where the spoken, poetic reflections and tributes against the smooth jazz accompaniment are pure romantic charm:

1. Sweet Talk
2. No One But You
3. Don't Let Go
4. This Love Is Real
5. Hot Like An Oven
6. Why You Wanna Love Me Like That?
7. I Won't Stop
8. Lady I've Been Waiting For
9. Try Love Again
10. Just A Matter Of Time

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