Flashback ALBUM REVIEW: BOYZ II MEN 'II'

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Internet shopping can be a wonderful thing. I managed to nab a copy of my favourite Boyz 2 Men album ‘II’ on Amazon for a measly 6 English pence. Yes you read correctly.

When the CD arrived I put all other listening on hold. My memory of multi-million selling sophomore ‘II’ is one of unmitigated listening pleasure. A friend leant me her (pirate) copy some time circa the mid-90s and I dubbed it onto tape. I recall a conveyor belt of classics that showcased Boyz 2 Men’s trademark airtight four-part harmonies and ear for a good groove. After well over ten years since I last heard the entire album I needed to make sure nostalgia hadn’t clouded my judgment. Far from it. On listening to ‘II’ again I was almost knocked over by a Proustian rush of good music-related memories. I knew my belief that this was the best B2M album was justified. In fact with luminaries such as Brian McKnight, Jam and Lewis, Tony Rich as well as the fellows themselves penning tracks, it is one of the best albums to come out of that decade. Famed for their ballads, ‘II’ proved that B2M could drop some quality mid to up-tempo songs as well; ‘I Sit Away’, ‘U Know’ and ‘All Around The World’ for example. I remember with delight the various remixes of personal favourites ‘Thank You’ and ‘Vibin’ ’ (the latter featuring rappers such as Redman) getting heavy rotation on Kiss FM in its superior days.

What sets ‘II’ apart from the other B2M albums I have heard since its release – and many records in general – is its consistency. ‘Evolution’ had its moments but there were some fillers on there, even more so on ‘Nathan, Michael, Shawn, Wanya’. However there is not a weak moment on ‘II’. You try and recover from the last great tune, contemplating a rewind then you’re hit by the next. Even the Babyface penned ‘I’ll Make Love To You’ – probably my least favourite track on the album – still smacks of B2M’s ability to turn a mere sweet melody to a certified torchlight anthem. ‘On Bended Knee’, ‘Water Runs Dry’ ‘Yesterday’ (the best cover out of the several good versions of this Beatles song)…. – some acts can’t even manage such classics during the span of their whole career let alone on one album. And ‘II’’s bedroom numbers such as ’50 Candles’ are some of the non-smuttiest baby-making tunes you’re likely to hear. In Wanya’s soaring first tenor and Shawn’s flawless falsetto, the undeniable influence of silk-voiced singer Mitchell Jones from the Gospel group Commissioned, is ever present especially on the ‘Khalil’ interlude. ‘II’ reminded me why B2M are still on the lips of artists and the discerning public alike when they speak of the most influential vocal groups of recent years. It’s a shame they have now scaled down to a trio on the departure of Michael McCary for health reasons. It’s not the same. To me, each member of B2M is indispensable to the vocal cohesion and when one leaves it’s time to call it a day, leaving behind a very impressive body of work.

Enough of my paean; I’ll shut up and let the music do the talking. Above and below are the clips for ‘Thank You’ and ‘Water Runs Dry’– I couldn’t find the video for the latter so you’ll have to make do with an audio clip.

Last of all, a fitting tribute to B2M by sibling quintet ‘Brutha’ whose acapella covers are superb (even if their own material is not).

Review by Tolita