Jade is another in a long line of interchangeable R&B girl groups that manage to find success without a trace of individuality. Although the members of Jade possess enough vocal talent to carry a tune, rarely do groups of this ilk manage to send a song soaring to the upper reaches of the pop charts through depth and personality. Instead, an abundance of hooks and radio-friendly production are enough to make a song a hit. "Don't Walk Away," Jade's smash hit single from its 1992 debut album Jade to the Max, is so infectious and irresistible, it could have been sung by almost anyone. The true mastermind behind Jade's debut release is Vassal Benford, who has written and/or produced for a myriad of performers (Toni Braxton, Sheena Easton, Surface, New Edition, Chante Moore, Atlantic Starr). His songwriting and production skills help make Jade to the Max more than just a run-of-the-mill R&B release. Fortunately, the members of Jade (Tonya Kelly, Joi Marshall, and Di Reed) make up for the lack of personality with talent and enthusiasm. The aforementioned "Don't Walk Away" is just one of the smash hits from Jade to the Max; the Janet Jackson sound-alike "I Wanna Love You" and the ballad "One Woman" also received airplay, and Jade also offers a capable cover of the Emotions' "Blessed." Despite a number of hits and an abundance of good material, Jade to the Max is very much a producer's creation. "Don't Walk Away" may be a familiar tune heard on the radio years after its success, but would anyone remember who performed it? Coming from an era full of similar-sounding, more successful vocal groups like En Vogue and SWV, there's a slim chance Jade will be remembered by name. Throughout rock history, many acts became successful despite providing little to no input into production or songwriting. Some (like Whitney Houston) have managed to maintain successful careers while employing songwriters and producers by the dozens, while others (like Stevie Wonder) demanded control over their own music, becoming more successful in the process. Although Jade attempted the latter route, co-writing several tunes on its sophomore release Mind, Body & Song (1994) and helping out with production, the album was not a big seller, and Jade has not been heard from since.
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AllMusic Review by William Cooper