The year is 1992, and Troop is fresh off an opening act slot on M.C. Hammer’s “Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em World Tour” and a cameo appearance in the nineties classic New Jack City. The Pasadena, California based R&B returned to the studio to begin the recording process for their third album, Deepa. Troop attempted an ambitious move with Deepa, and that was the concept album. A concept album is an album whose tracks hold a larger purpose or meaning collectively than they do individually. Think Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, Janet Jackson’s Control and New Edition’s Heartbreak.
With their pristine choreography including the “Troop lean” and five-part harmony, The group had already won over audiences with its first two albums 1988’S self-titled debut and 1989’s Attitude. Led by the number one charting Babyface written “Sweet November,” and the follow-up singles “Whatever It Takes (To Make You Say) and “Give It Up, “the Deepa album should’ve taken Troop to the next level. Sadly the album went largely unnoticed by the public.
Released on June 2nd, 1992, Deepa opens with “Praise,” a Gospel interlude that gives each member a chance to shine vocally, the album then transitions to up-tempo material. Group member Lawrence “Allen” McNeil collaborates with producer Demetrius Shipp on the song “Keep You Next to Me.” While lead singer Steve Russell has a chance to work with Shipp on “She Blows My Mind” and “I’m Not Gamin”. Fans of Troop’s up-tempo songs will generally love the first half of the album.
However, ballad fans like myself will find much to enjoy with the second half of the album. Beginning with Track 7, a duet with Walter & Scotty of The Whispers entitled “I Feel You,” Troop is here to show that they are now grown, men. Steve Russell thoroughly does justice to The Deele on “Sweet November” while “Come Back to Your Home” is the perfect apology record for when your lady leaves after a fight.
A few more up-tempo numbers in between the slower songs that all transition into the song that follows. This method is evident in the album’s second single, which precedes my favorite song on the album “You Take My Heart My With You.” The song written by group member, Steve Russell, was a part of my soundtrack during my single days in the Air Force living in the UK when I knew Mrs. Right was out there.
As someone who reads albums credits, I’ve always felt that Steve Russell’s name isn’t mentioned enough among great songwriters. Russell has written for Charlie Wilson, Tyrese, and played a part in the soundtrack for the movie adaptation of Dreamgirls. Russell’s pen talents are evident in the slow jams “Deepa” and the album’s final single “Give It Up,” both of which are better songs than some of the R&B albums released in the last ten years.
Outside of under promotion, I don’t know why Deepa didn’t succeed more on the charts. Boyz II Men’s II was still two years away, New Edition was on hiatus, and the newer R&B groups (i.e., Portrait and Silk) wouldn’t drop their debut albums until fall 1992. The potential was there for Troop to become a modern-day version of The Manhattans or The Chi-Lites. Thankfully the group and its members are still releasing music as a group, in addition to solo material from members John “Jon Jon” Harreld, Steve Russell, and Allen McNeil.
No matter the music genre, a concept album is difficult to pull off, but Troop succeeds with ease. By the time we reach the album closer, the up-tempo “Hot Water,” Troop has given fans a near-classic album. I highly recommend giving this one a re-listen on your favorite streaming platform.
Final Re-listen Grade: A –
Best Tracks – the singles, “You Take My Heart With You,” “Deepa,” “Keep You Next,” To Me, “Come Back to Your Home,” “I Feel You.”