Jesse Powell, Jesse Powell
Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Slow Jam Saturday: A Look Back At Jesse Powell’s self-titled debut

Nineties R&B fans were dealt a huge blow this past Tuesday when news broke of singer Jesse Powell’s transition to the heavenly gates. While the singer hadn’t released an album in nearly two decades, his name always comes up among real R&B fans. 

Websites like SoulInStero.com, run by my big bruv Edward Bowser and, of course, YouKnowIGotSoul.Com, overseen by Thomas Leo and Kyle Ng, constantly spoke about Powell over the years. While Powell’s signature song was the lush ballad “You,” for this week’s Slow Jam Saturday, I decided to give Mr. Powell his flowers and highlight all of the slow jams from his debut album, 1996’s Jesse Powell. 

Record executive Louil Silas Jr. knew what he was doing when he signed the late Jesse Powell to his label Silas Records in 1996. Powell’s first single was the up-tempo “All I Need,” which is still in my rotation. However, those who know me can attest to my preference for ballads. The first slow cut on Powell’s debut is “You Don’t Know.” 

For this song, Powell linked up with legendary producer Daryl Simmons for the track where Powell eloquently croons about lost love. Powell’s runs on the songs showcase just how talented he was, and the icing on the cake is when Powell ends the songs paying homage to The Dramatics’ “In The Rain.” Up next is Powell’s signature song, “You.” I went more in-depth about “You” in a Flashback Friday Review yesterday for Powell’s second album, Bout It, over at my secondary site. But in a word, the song is a classic. 

“The Enchantment Medley” (“Gloria”/”It’s You That I Need”) follows “You.” “Gloria” was Powell’s second single. However, for the album version, Powell included the song in a medley with another Enchantment song, “It’s You That I Need. Powell worked with the song’s original producer Michael Stokes who co-wrote the song with Enchantment’s lead singer Emanuel Johnson. 

Collaborating with Stokes on the music, Powell essentially makes the songs his own as he sings in his register instead of trying to imitate Johnson. On another note, I know I’m not the only guy who replaced the name Gloria with the name of a young lady who broke my heart in a feeble attempt to get her back in the nineties.

Surprisingly for the third single, Powell went back to up-tempo music, releasing “I Like It” in the fall of 1996. However, any number of Powell’s album’s tracks could have possibly made some noise as a single if promoted right. Powell links up with his sister Trina for 

“If You Like What You See.” Powell has a writing credit on this one, while Buster and Shavoni handle the production. The song has a “better man” vibe, and Powell’s vocals are top-notch while his sister takes the chorus and bridge. Their voices blend perfectly.

Mint Condition members Keri Lewis and Stokely Williams blessed Powell with “All Alone.” Mint would release their third album in the fall of 1996, but “All Alone” never comes across as a leftover Mint track. Instead, the group caters the song to Powell’s vocal stylings providing a solid album track. “All Alone” is one song that makes you miss Arsenio Hall’s show, as the legendary late-night host would have had both on the show to perform the track.

“I Will Be Loving You” with Daryl Simmons again. I can’t help but wonder what the studio session was like and how many takes it took to get it right, as this is the longest song on the album. The production is textbook Simmons who is acceptable as Simmons is a gifted man behind the keys.

Powell closes his debut with the heartbreak ballad “Is It Over,” another collaboration with his “You” producer Carl Roland. Hearing this song, it’s clear the two had kindred chemistry. While “You” is about the cheerful glow of love, “Is It Over” sincerely deals with heartbreak.

While Jesse Powell’s debut didn’t significantly impact the charts, fans of nineties R&B should check out solely for the ballads.

Final Grade: B+

Jesse Powell is available on all streaming platforms.

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