Numerous R&B groups have fallen into obscurity following the departure of the lead singer. One such group was Public Announcement which collaborated with a disgraced R&B singer for a 1992 project.
Slow Jam Saturday: New Edition, Old Friends
Earlier this week, all six members of legendary R&B kicked off their latest stage show, The Culture Tour, with opening acts Charlie Wilson and Jodeci. While my two dates to see the tour do not occur until February 27th in Baltimore and March 31st in D.C., I wanted to look back at the group’s post Home Again Era.
The chaotic Home Again tour concluded in the summer of 1997, and the members took hiatus to focus on solo endeavors once again. Initially, there were rumors that members Ralph Tresvant, Johnny Gill, and Bobby Brown would form another spin-off group called Stone Cold Gentlemen. While the three eventually did, a group together called Heads of State, that did not occur until eleven years later.
Instead, in 1997, Brown released a new solo album, Gill teamed up with Keith Sweat and Johnny Gill for R&B super group LSG. Tresvant found fulfillment in Gospel plays while the remaining members of New Edition (Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe) would also focus on various things in and out of the entertainment industry. While the Home Again album was still in rotation, it seemed very bleak that the world would ever hear fresh music from New Edition again as a group.
However, in the fall of 1998, the group’s label at the time, MCA, released a compilation titled Lost in Love: The Best of Slow Jams. Highlighting NE’s work with the label from 1984 – to 1996 was a nice treat for fans new to the group. However, fan-favorites Jealous Girl and Is This the End were absent from the project due to licensing. Additionally, as Johnny Gill was on Motown as a solo artist, none of his solo ballads from his prime era feature on the album.
Thankfully, MCA had a surprise in store for fans placing an unreleased track on the album. That song is “Old Friends” and is the week’s pick for Slow Jam Saturday. Initially recorded during the Home Again sessions, “Old Friends” has the production talents of Eric “Kenya” Baker and the pen game of Janice Marie Johnson.
“Old Friends” is a ballad about regret and lost love featuring Ralph Tresvant on lead vocals. The song opens with the chorus before Rizz croons,
“Saw you walk into the club last night
Could not even believe what I was seein’
How do I even stop thinkin’ of you?
Cause in my eyes you’re still mine
Nobody told me I would feel like this
Wanting you more as the years walk on by
Now I’m not afraid to say what I, I believe
But I wish you were my wife
My old friend”.
“Old Friends” gives Tresvant the chance to show off his tenor singing style in all its glory, and you generally feel the pain in his voice. In the early days of New Edition, Tresvant was known for his Michael Jackson -esque falsetto. Similar to Jackson, Tresvant’s voice got better with age. Honestly, had Tresvant decided to release his third solo album in the late nineties, this would have been a great lead single.
The only reason I can think of the song’s omission from Home Again is perhaps the group felt it would have been overkill. Hear Me Out, One More Day and the hit single I’m Still In Love With You all dealt with similar themes. Nevertheless, “Old Friends” is a beautiful ballad and a personal favorite.
Final Grade: A
“Old Friends” from Lost in Love: The Best of Slow Jams is available on all streaming platforms
More reviews to explorer
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Having previously revisited the late great Jesse Powell’s first, third and fourth albums, I wanted to bring on a music head to discuss Powell’s second album, Bout It. Arriving in stores on September 8, 1998, Powell’s sophomore album featured the hit song “You”. While R&B fans first heard the song on Powell’s debut, it was officially a single on this album.