Brownstone

From the Bottom Up

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The Los Angeles-based R&B vocal trio Brownstone released its first album From the Bottom Up (on Michael Jackson's label) in 1995. A solid debut, From the Bottom Up showcases the group's considerable vocal talents, but Brownstone is somewhat distinctive in that the group's members also had a hand in writing their own material. Predictably, the album's songs alternate between R&B funk workouts and slinky slow jams, but the vocals rise above the material, making the album a delightful listen. The opener, "Party Wit' Me," gets things off to a funky start, and the hip-shakers "Pass the Lovin'" and "True to Me" prove Brownstone, unlike many R&B vocal groups, doesn't rely too heavily on ballads. Fortunately, the album's slow numbers are just as strong as the more up-tempo material; the group's Gospel influences are evident in the album's hit single, "If You Love Me" (a slow-burning slice of R&B vocal heaven) and especially in the slow, sad "Don't Cry for Me." Brownstone's unlikely cover of the Eagles' hit ballad "I Can't Tell You Why" is one of the album's most successful tracks, as is the beautiful, piano-led "Half of You." From the Bottom Up is somewhat undermined by an overabundance of producers (of the album's 12 tunes, the group uses no less than ten producers/production teams). But this doesn't take away from the quality of the songs and the solid vocal performances.

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