At the AllMusic Blog, Andy Kellman compiles a single disc Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis compilation, covering 1982 through 1988. He notes the staggering amount of material they have produced in the past 25 years:
A thorough collection of Jam & Lewis’ output as session musicians, songwriters, arrangers, and producers would be unwieldy. You would probably hurt your back carrying it in vinyl form. When EMI Music Publishing celebrated the duo in the form of a promotional four-disc box, the compilers crammed 78 songs onto four discs and had to use several abbreviated edits in order to make it all fit. That set, put together in the mid ’90s, did not allow key album cuts, and a few hits involving the honored in lesser capacities were not considered.
He provides links to some of his choices, many of which were too R & B to be on my radar in my little Upper Peninsula Michigan town with only one rock radio station. It was good to check out Cherrelle’s original version of “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On.” While it’s inferior to the definitive Robert Palmer version of a couple of years later, the Robert Palmer video doesn’t feature King Kong break dancing. And “If It Isn’t Love” by New Edition is a great little number, a simple song with banal lyrics and a nice understated Ralph Tresvant vocal beneath all the production. Somehow it works. If you don’t know the song, definitely hit the hyperlink.
I don’t know why the compiler stopped at 1988, as Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis had plenty of good material after that–maybe he’s planning a sequel. Since I’m not limited by that restriction, I can draw attention to two of my favorites, “If” by Janet Jackson and “Rub You the Right Way” by Johnny Gill.
The guitar lick underlaying the first third of “If” is just plain awesome, and, in an up-tempo song, Janet somehow manages to sound like she really means it when she laments “If I was your girl…”
Whatever happened to New Jack Swing? I loved that sound. “Rub You the Right Way” is about as good as it gets. Can someone revive New Jack Swing, please?