Johnny Gill had already released two solo albums and a duet album with childhood friend Stacy Lattisaw when he joined New Edition in 1987. After helping the group shed its bubblegum image and emerge as a mature R&B group, Gill released his third solo in 1990 to the success of two million sold. Gill then contributed the songs “I’m Still Waiting,” “There U Go” and “Let’s Just Run Away” to the soundtracks of the films New Jack City, Boomerang and Mo’ Money.
On June 8th, 1993, Gill released his fourth solo album, Provocative. The album’s first single “The Floor” finds Gill reuniting with hit makers Jimmy Jim & Terry Lewis and features a cameo appearance from Stokely of Mint Condition.
Twenty-seven years later, the song still sounds fresh and is one of Johnny’s lesser-known hits. Gill kept the up-tempo momentum going for the album’s second single, the Boyz II Men written “I Got You.” While known for his ballads, Gill could pack a dance just as well as could set the mood for the bedroom. One of my personal favorites from this album that was never a single is “A Cute, Sweet, Love Addiction.”
However, we all know that Gill is a balladeer, and the album’s next two singles deliver the goods. L.A. & Babyface, who provided Gill with his signature song “My, My, My,” reunited with the singer for the album’s third single “Long Way From Home.” The soaring ballad details a man seeking a woman out who’s out on her own for the first time in life. I’m almost positive during the song’s release; it was a staple for college dorms and first duty military stations.
“Quiet Time To Play” was the album’s final single and is signature Gill. A grown man slow jam that never ventures in vulgarity or corniness. Instead, the song showcases why Gill is one of his generation’s best singers if you’ve never heard the live version, head over to YouTube for a musical treat.
The rest of the album is a mixture of up-tempo songs and ballads. Rapper L.L. Cool J contributes to the writing on the ballad “Mastersuite.”
In hindsight, Gill just repeated the formula that made his first album a success. Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis oversaw the bulk of the album’s production as they brought out the best in Gill vocally.
Sadly despite quality production and lush vocals, Provocative only went gold. Similar to the New Edition spin-off act, Bell Biv DeVoe’s sophomore album Hootie Mack which was released a week before to the same sales figures, I blame the delay in releasing the album and the shift in music on the stalled sales. Ideally, had Gill released this album in the fall or winter of 1992, I do think the sales would’ve been more substantial, as nothing on this album has a summertime feel.
Nevertheless, Gill is a capable vocalist, and Provocative is a worthy follow up to his breakthrough 1990 album. Provocative is available on all streaming platforms.
Final Re-Listen Grade: B +
Best Songs: “The Floor,” “A Cute, Sweet, Love Addiction,” “Quiet Time To Play,” “Long Way From Home,” “Mastersuite”