Alexander O'Neal

Alexander O'Neal

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Alexander O'Neal wasn't as huge as Luther Vandross or Freddie Jackson; nonetheless, he was among the most exciting male R&B vocalists of the mid- to late '80s. Creatively and commercially, the soul man hit the ground running with this impressive debut album. It's impossible to discuss Alexander O'Neal without mentioning the Time -- O'Neal is an ex-member of that Minneapolis funk-rock combo, and so are the album's producers (Monte Moir on three tracks, the Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis team on the others). Also, former Time member Jelly Bean Johnson is heard on drums, percussion, and guitar. But despite the participation of so many Time graduates, this release isn't nearly as Minneapolis-sounding as it could have been. The intoxicating funk hit "Innocent" is very Time influenced, but for the most part, O'Neal comes across as the epitome of a smooth, romantic soul man -- sleek gems like "If You Were Here Tonight," "A Broken Heart Can Mend," and "What's Missing" have more in common with Luther Vandross, Freddie Jackson, and Kashif than with Prince or the Time. While the solo albums that Morris Day and Jesse Johnson provided in the 1980s were consistently Time-minded, that isn't the case with O'Neal's 1985 debut. Some people found that surprising, but then, O'Neal never actually recorded with the Time -- when the Time recorded its first LP for Warner Bros. in 1981, O'Neal was long gone. Excellent from start to finish, Alexander O'Neal is the singer's most essential album.

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