An optimistic selection of mid-paced grooves that showcase the zest of Mills’ voice.
Daryl Easlea 2009-06-02
Although she has enjoyed only fleeting UK success, Stephanie Mills was something of a huge star in the US by the time she had cut Sweet Sensation in 1980, thanks largely to her performance as Dorothy in the Broadway production of The Wiz.
Recording since the mid-70s, she had been with Motown, who quite frankly weren’t sure what to do with her. Signing to 20th Century in 1979, she changed direction and went, as so many did in the era, disco. The resulting album, What Cha Gonna Do With My Lovin was her first gold record in the states.
Produced by Reggie Lucas and James Mtume, Sweet Sensation was the album that truly provided the former child star with the direction that she needed. Lucas and Mtume crafted an optimistic selection of mid-paced grooves that showcased the zest of Mills’ voice and fully made real her potential.
Never Knew Love Like This Before was the album’s big hit, and it’s perfectly understandable to hear why – it’s simply one of those beautiful, life-affirming soul records. It reached No. 4 in the UK charts in October 1980.
The title track is reminiscent of Ashford and Simpson’s then-relatively recent By Way Of Love’s Express, a superbly insistent piece of urban soul; Still Mine is the album’s standout ballad, richly orchestrated, deeply mellow, supported by the emotive backing vocals of Tawatha Agee and Gwen Guthrie.
Sweet Sensation reached the US Top 20 in 1980, and maintained her star status in the states. In the UK, we’d have to wait another four years until we heard from her significantly again, with the mighty Medicine Song. But that is, indeed, another story.