It’s November 1990, and five of the six members of New Edition had branched out to successful solo careers. Bobby Brown was still enjoying success from his 1988 release Don’t Be Cruel, while Brown’s placement Johnny Gill had released three successful singles from his self-titled third album. Finally, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe had shocked the world with the success of their own group Bell Biv DeVoe and the massive success of their debut album Poison, led by the same-titled single.
All that was left was for lead singer Ralph Tresvant to release his debut solo album and storm the world. The New Edition Story revealed Tresvant initially recorded a solo album in 1987 entitled Living In A Dream. However, due to his loyalty to New Edition and its 1988 Heartbreak album, Tresvant put the project on hold. Also, the Living In A Dream album sounded too similar to Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel, forcing Tresvant had to scrape the record and start over.
Ralph Tresvant released his self-titled debut on November 20th, 1990. Initially planning to release the ballad “I Love You (Just for You)” as his first single, those plans were altered. Tresvant’s record label decided that the Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis written and produced “Sensitivity” would make a better first single. MCA made the correct assumption the song is now known as Tresvant’s signature song.
Working with a who’s who in producers at the time, Tresvant’s debut was blessed with the production and writing skills from Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Babyface, Kyle West and Michael Jackson.
Tresvant opens up the album with the hip hop flavored “Rated R” which samples The Temptations “Masterpiece”. Produced by Jimmy Jam & Terry, the song gave Tresvant a chance to show off his rapping skills. Jam & Lewis also provide Tresvant with the album’s third track, the criminally underrated “She’s My Love Thang”. Also, the duo provided Tresvant with the heartbreaking ballad and album’s final single “Do What I Gotta Do.”
The Daryl Simmons produced the second single “Stone Cold Gentleman” finds Tresvant reuniting with Bobby Brown on wax for the first time in five years. Their chemistry is as strong as it was in the early New Edition days. Tresvant’s debut does lose a bit of the momentum in a few of the album tracks, “Love Hurts,” “Girl I Can’t Control It,” and “Love Takes Time,” haven’t aged well and come across filler.
Thankfully the album closes with some ballads which showcase Tresvant’s tenor. Timmy Gatling & Alton “Wokie” Stewart provide “Last Night” a sexy slow jam that should’ve been a single. While the aforementioned “I Love You (Just for You)” is one of the best vocals on the album.
Before closing the album out with a remix of “Sensitivity”, Tresvant embraces one of his influences on the Michael Jackson. Jackson wrote, “Alright Now,” and per Tresvant, MJ is singing in the background vocals, and he sang over them. Similar to “Last Night”, “Alright Now” should’ve had the luxury of a single release.
Despite going platinum, Ralph Tresvant’s debut should’ve led to a more successful solo career. Whether it was the competition at the time or the changing musical landscape, I’m a firm believer that Tresvant still hasn’t gotten his just due as a solo artist.
Final Relisten: Grade – B +
Best tracks – “Sensitivity”, “Stone Cold Gentleman” Do What I Gotta Do”, “She’s My Love Thang,” Last Night “Alright Now,” “I Love You (Just For You).”
Ralph Tresvant’s new single “All Mine” featuring Johnny Gill will be available on all streaming platforms, Friday, July 3rd