Jody Russell

Just in Time

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The minute Jody Russell starts to sing, one can tell that she has spent a lot of time listening to Stephanie Mills. In fact, Russell's debut album, Just in Time, opens with a cover of Mills' 1980 hit "Never Knew Love Like This Before," and it is obvious that Mills has greatly influenced her singing. But unlike Mills, Russell doesn't have a lot of great material to work with. Produced by Andre Cymone, Just in Time isn't a terrible album. But most of the material is pedestrian, and that is true of danceable up-tempo fare like "Gotta Be On" and "Give Me Love" as well as sentimental urban/adult contemporary ballads such as "He Gave Me You," "Just in Time," and "Forever." The problem isn't a lack of talent on the part of either Russell or Cymone, who co-wrote several of the songs. Russell is a capable singer -- an artist who has a strong appreciation of Mills but isn't an outright clone of that well-known R&B vocalist (who had her share of major hits in late '70s and '80s). And Cymone has a track record; he started out as the bassist in Prince's band, the Revolution, in the early '80s and went on to produce Jody Watley, Pebbles, and other major urban contemporary stars (although Cymone didn't have a lot of big hits as a solo artist). But having talent doesn't mean that you are going to hit a creative home run every time, and while this 1999 release (which was far from a huge seller) isn't terrible, Russell and Cymone are probably capable of a lot more.

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