New Edition, Under The Blue Moon
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Derrick Dunn

Second Listen Sunday: New Edition, Under The Blue Moon

The year was 1986, and legendary R&B group New Edition was amid a transitional phase. Founding member Bobby Brown had exited the group in the winter of 1985, making the group a quartet. Remaining members Ralph Tresvant, Ronnie DeVoe, Ricky Bell, and Michael Bivins pushed on to finish the All For Love Tour, promoting their same-titled third album.    

Columbia Pictures was preparing to release The Karate Kid Part II and enlisted New Edition to cover The Penguins’ “Earth Angel” for the soundtrack. “Earth Angel” was intended as a one-off, but the song became a minor chart hit thanks to the film and its soundtrack. As a result, the group’s label decided they should record an entire album of doo-wop covers.  

Arriving in stores on November 24, 1986, Under The Blue Moon was the group’s sole album as a foursome. MCA linked the group up with legendary songwriter, record producer, arranger, and orchestra conductor Freddie Perren who produced nine of the ten songs on the album.

Perren primarily relies on Ralph Tresvant to carry the album with some assistance from Ricky Bell. The album’s ballads are the strong point, notably the lead single. Vocally, Tresvant was on the cusp of growing into a first tenor, but at the age of eighteen, he still sells innocence on 

“A Million To One,” “A Thousand Miles Away,” What’s Your Name,” and “Tears On My Pillow.” While Ricky Bell finally gets a chance to showcase his voice on a fire cover of Eddie Holman’s “Hey There Lonely Girl.”

Sadly, the magic doesn’t transcend to the up-tempo covers, “Blue Moon” and “Duke Of Earl.” Tresvant’s voice is in fine form in the songs, but they come across as filler. The group closes the album with the only original song on the project, “Bring Back The Memories.” Ric Wyatt Jr writes and produces this one more in line with their signature bubble gum hits.  

 Anyone who knows me will validate my New Edition fandom. However, Under The Blue Moon is the group’s weak point and screams cash grab for the label. Around the same time that “Earth Angel” was impacting airwaves, the group had another song out which featured the production talents of Freddie Perren. That track was “Once In A Lifetime Groove” from the Running Scarred soundtrack.   

I can’t help but wonder what would’ve happened if the label kept the sound from “Once In A Lifetime Groove” for the entire album. Concurrently MCA could’ve linked the group with label mate Melvin Riley Jr. of Ready For The World for some slow jams.  Under The Blue Moon isn’t a total disaster, and it did set the stage for the group’s best album.

 

Final Grade: C+

Under The Blue Moon is available on all streaming platforms.

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