Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Second Listen Sunday: Gregory Hines

It is common for actors to explore their musical talents, as they complement each other like movies and popcorn. Growing up in the eighties, I recall Eddie Murphy, Don Johnson, and Philip Michal Thomas releasing projects. This week’s Second Listen Sunday pick is Gregory Hines, the late thespian and tap-dancing icon who released a self-titled album in 1988.

In the past, Hines displayed his vocal prowess in numerous Broadway productions and was the lead singer and musician in a rock band called Severance based in Venice, Los Angeles, in the mid-seventies. By 1986, Hines had built a name for himself as an actor, so R&B fans were taken when he showed up for a duet with Big Luther on the ballad “There’s Nothing Better Than Love” from Vandross’s fifth album, Give Me the Reason.

Hines possessed a rich tenor that perfectly completed Luther’s baritone, and the song would hit number one. The success led Hines to release his self-titled album with abundant support from Vandross, who penned Hines’s debut solo single “That Girl Wants to Dance with Me.” The track is reminiscent of the eighties Luther and finds Hines crooning about a woman he sees in a club. Vandross plays a part in every song on the album in either the writing or producing aspect. Upon reflection, some Luther purists in the music industry may label this project as a collection of Luther Vandross sessions.

Upon listening to the album again, it seems like Vandross provided the financing for the studio time, had pre-written songs, and gave them to Hines to perform. The upbeat tracks like “You Need Somebody,” “I’m Gonna Get to You,” and “Gloria My Love” are all exceptional. If Stevie Wonder had contributed to “Gloria My Love,” it could have quickly become a hit single. The album also features ballads that showcase Vandross’s signature style, including “This Is What I Believe,” “So Much Better Now,” and “Love Don’t Love You Anymore,” which Vandross later re-recorded for his 1996 album, “Your Secret Love.”

While none of the ballads reach the heights of “There’s Nothing Better Than Love” (also featured on this album), what Hines does with these songs surpasses what many so-called R&B singers are producing in 2023. Hines makes a strong debut album with just one minor flaw: his emulation of Luther’s vocal style becomes tiresome because he can stand out on his own. Looking back at Hines’ celebrity status in 1988, one can’t help but wonder why he didn’t reach out to names like Babyface, Jam & Lewis, or Leon Sylvers for more variety from Luther’s style. Unfortunately, Gregory Hines failed to impact the charts, and this was his only solo studio album featuring original material. Nevertheless, this is a decent album from a talent still greatly missed.

Final Grade: B-

Gregory Hines is available on all streaming platforms.

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