Tuesday, September 24, 2013

DeBarge - In A Special Way

Following their 1982 album All This Love (click here for that review), the five-member family group DeBarge returned to the studio to work on their third album. The result was 1983’s In A Special Way which is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary today (September 24th). This one charted similarly to its predecessor, reaching number 36 on the US Billboard Album chart and number 4 on the US Billboard R&B chart.

Side one begins with “Be My Lady”, a mid-tempo dance tune with a number of solid hooks.

On the mid-tempo ballad “Stay With Me”, a man pleads with his lover to remain with him despite her worries. This song has been sampled by a number of hip-hop and R&B artists in the 90’s and beyond, including Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey and Ne-Yo.

“Time Will Reveal”, the first single, went to number 18 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 12 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and number 1 on the US Billboard R&B chart. I can remember this one being a popular slow dance song back in the day, at both college campus parties and the night clubs where I went dancing. The song has been covered by such artists of Blackstreet, Boyz II Men, and Janelle Monáe.

“Need Somebody” closes out the first half of the record. The rhythm has a meandering quality to it.

Side two opens with the piano-based ballad “Love Me in a Special Way”. As the second single, it reached number 45 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 21 on the US Adult Contemporary chart, and number 11 on the US Billboard R&B chart. Fellow Motown label artist Stevie Wonder provided the harmonica on this hit.

“Queen of My Heart”, another slower tempo love song, follows.

“Baby, Won’t Cha Come Quick” picks up the pace a bit; it also infuses some Latin rhythms with an unexpected searing guitar solo. After a large number of ballads in a row, this is a welcome change at this point.

“I Give Up on You” keeps the momentum going with an impudent number about some payback.

“A Dream” opens with a semi-spooky keyboard riff, followed by some lush strings. Bunny DeBarge then takes the lead vocals on this ballad that she also wrote.

Thanks to radio and club airplay, I was pretty familiar with the big ballads from In A Special Way. However, in listening to this whole album from DeBarge, I would have to say that the trio of dance tracks holds a lot of appeal as well. Because each of the five siblings takes their turn at writing and lead vocals, the record certainly has a variety of voices - but all in perfect familial harmony.

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