Ricky Bell, known for his work in New Edition and its spin off group Bell Biv DeVoe, quietly released a solo album in 2000. Outside of the cover song “Hey There Lonely Girl”, “One More Day ” a co-lead on “I’m Still in Love with You”, Bell never had a chance to sing lead during his time with New Edition. However when Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis had the bright idea for Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe to start their own group, the industry began to take note of Bell’s voice.
Bell initially signed a solo deal with Silas Records (a subsidiary of MCA his long time NE & BBD label) in November of 1995, however due to the obligation of the New Edition reunion project, Bell put the album on album. After the ill-fated Home Again tour and nearly three years without a public appearance, Bell made an appearance on Soul Train in October 2000 where he performed his debut solo single “Spanish Fly”. The production isn’t bad on “Spanish Fly” and I remember initially liking the song but with the Relisten it hasn’t aged well.
Bell’s solo album Ricardo Campana was released a few weeks later on 3rd Vision Records. Bell opens the album with the lead single before finding his footing with “My Body”, a mid- tempo number that showcases Bell’s tenor. Bell then transitions into three slow jams that I feel would’ve had a stronger impact as a first single.
Up first is “Can’t Stay Away” a song that any of Bell’s contemporaries could sing, however at the age of thirty three, Bell never ventures into juvenile territory. “It’s All About You” is a great ballad that may remind listeners of Bell’s New Edition work, while “Come Back” is a pseudo sequel to BBD’s When Will I See You Smile Again” ? Bell reunites with his former group mates on a few tracks.
Johnny Gill features on “Struggle” which is one of the weaker songs and I wasn’t too fond of it back in 2000. The production doesn’t really fit Gill and Bell’s vocals, the remix is a bit stronger though. While Ronnie DeVoe adds raps to the songs “Sunday”, “Have Ya Cake” and “Still I See”. All three of the DeVoe tracks were single worthy and still scream a DeVoe solo album.
Due to the manner it was released, Bell’s solo album largely went unnoticed. I do think that the album was a bit ahead of its time as indie labels weren’t jumping off yet in 2000. When I purchased Ricardo Campana on release day, I bought the only copy in the store and had to drive to the other side of town to get it. I’ve heard Bell sing live in either New Edition or Bell Biv DeVoe close to twenty times, and he’s never performed anything from the album.
In all honesty, I’ve never even heard Bell acknowledge the album’s existence post 2000. Nevertheless Ricardo Campana is a great debut from the man affectionately known as the music industry’s best kept secret. If you’ve never heard Ricky Bell’s solo album it is available on all streaming platforms.
Best Tracks “Can’t Stay Away”, “Come Back,” “It’s All About You” and “Have Ya Cake”
Final Relisten Grade: B+