A very credible solo debut from the former L.T.D. singer.
Daryl Easlea 2011-02-09
Dedicated to his mother, partner and daughters, Jeffrey Osborne's debut album from 1982 is a strange beast that finds him unsure if he wants to be an MOR balladeer or an out-and-out funker. Osborne was former leader of US dance group L.T.D., and went on the solo market at the same time as Lionel Richie, another vocalist leaving his long-term outfit for solo success with a similar blend. Although Osborne never scaled Richie’s heights, there are strong similarities between both artists, who marry their grooves with several show-stopping ballads.
Osborne co-wrote most of his solo debut, and it’s a highly polished, professional affair. Given its remarkable team of players that included producer George Duke, Brothers Johnson bassist Louis Johnson and drummer Steve Ferrone, Jeffrey Osborne is actually rather a modest album that reveals its rewards over time.
This is strong, sensitive music, yet muscular enough in grooves such as album opener New Love and US hit I Really Don’t Need No Light, written by Osborne and David ‘Hawk’ Wolinski (the author of Rufus’ masterful Ain’t Nobody). It has real zest, as has Who You Talkin’ To? with its liberal excess of voicebox. Less good is Eenie Meenie, which subverts the old nursery rhyme. It may have worked in 1982, but now just sounds wrong.
However, the ballads are what sold the album – grandiose and dramatic, Osborne’s distinctive voice is well suited to their pathos. The rather downbeat Congratulations become a tailor-made celebration song; You Were Made to Love and Baby are both slow jam and sensual.
More interesting is Osborne’s follow-up album, where he recorded Stay with Me Tonight, a song by former Chic keyboard player Raymond Jones that briefly turned him to a sort of soul David Byrne and broke him in the UK. The success of that tune propelled his debut album’s standout ballad, On the Wings of Love, into the charts. Hardly any wedding was complete without this oversweet confection as its soundtrack in the mid-80s.
Always far bigger in the States than in the UK, Osborne is still delighting audiences and a lot of his ongoing success is down to this debut album. Although not to everyone’s taste, Jeffrey Osborne was a very credible starting point for him.