It’s no question that Luther Vandross was the prominent male balladeer of the eighties. However, one of his competitors, Freddie Jackson, also provided the decade with quiet storm staples starting with the release of his debut, Rock Me Tonight. Hitting shelves on April 28th, 1985, Jackson opens up Rock Me Tonight with “He’ll Never Love You (Like I Do)”. A nice up-tempo number produced and written by Keith Diamond and Barry Eastmond. The song is the perfect way to kick off the album and introduce us to Jackson’s voice.
Along with Eastmond, Jackson contributes to the writing of “Love Is Just a Touch Away,” which is another mid-tempo groove. Jackson continues with the dancefloor-ready “I Wanna Say I Love You.” Jackson sings the song effortlessly, but for an artist, with Jackson’s vocal capability, some may see it as filler. The next two songs are the ones, though, that made Jackson a household name.
Up first is the Barry J. Eastmond written and produced “You Are My Lady.” A lovely ballad that expresses love for women, the song eludes romance. Jackson sings the lyrics of Eastmond with a passion of a man well beyond the years. I’ve always felt that the song is also one that parents sing to their newborn daughter. You Are My Lady” hit number one on the R&B charts for two weeks and is still a concert staple for Jackson.
The singer’s debut solo single “Rock Me Tonight (For Old Times Sake)” follows. In addition to being the top-selling R&B single for 1985, the song spent six weeks at number one. From Paul Laurence’s pen, “Rock Me Tonight (For Old Times Sake)” is a classic song that works on so many levels. In my unfinished play, I paid homage to the classic Say Anything scene Lloyd Dobler stands outside Diane Court’s window with a boom box. The song I have playing is “Rock Me Tonight (For Old Times Sake).” Whether you’re seeing the one that got away at your high school reunion or returning after military duty, this is the song you play to get your love back or set the mood.
“Sing a Song of Love” is a quality album track that revels in the joys of new love. The simplicity of Barry Eastwood’s music puts you in a good mood, and I’m surprised this wasn’t a single. “Calling” is somewhat filler but once again, Barry Eastmond’s production partnered with Jackson’s voice is so smooth you can’t help but groove. Jackson closes out his debut with a cover of Billie Holiday’s “Good Morning Heartache” that does “Lady Day” justice.
Following Rock Me Tonight’s release, Jackson would release eleven more albums over the next three decades. Naturally, there were hits and misses, but none of the later releases were as strong as his debut in terms of a complete project. Nevertheless, thirty-six years later, Jackson’s debut still holds and is a terrific introduction to one of the eighties’ signature voices.
Final Grade: B+
Top Songs: “Rock Me Tonight (For Old Times Sake),” You Are My Lady and “Sing a Song of Love”
Rock Me Tonight is available on all streaming platforms.