20 ESSENTIAL ALBUMS
Who: Boyz II Men.
What: The Philadelphia quartet’s third and most popular album, with certified U.S. sales of 12 million copies. It was Number One on theBillboard pop charts for five weeks, and one of their five Top 10 albums between 1991-2002.
When: II was released August 30, 1994, a couple of weeks after its first 45, “I’ll Make Love To You,” arrived on the Billboard Hot 100. The track was their most successful smash, spending 14 weeks at Number One. It was immediately followed by another triumph, “On Bended Knee,” which debuted on the charts November 19, and went on to occupy the summit for six weeks. Thus, Boyz II Men became only the third act in Hot 100 history to succeed themselves at Number One, after Elvis Presley and the Beatles. (For more about their career, read here)
Where: Some recording for II was done in Reno, Nevada, at the Granny’s House studio. The group had decided on the location after it became clear that plans to cut the material in their Philadelphia hometown would cause complications. “It was hard to concentrate on the music with all of our families and friends around,” Shawn Stockman said in The Billboard Book of Number One Albums. “We could concentrate better there [in Reno], and get away from the distractions.” Other studios where the work was done included Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ Flyte Tyme facilities in Minnesota.
Why: “There’s a spiritual feel to our music,” said Stockman before II was released. “We sing about love – finding love, enjoying love, dealing with not having love. You won’t find us singing anything hard-core – something violent or overly sexual. We’re romantic balladeers.” He added, “No one dominates in this group. We share the lead singing and give everyone a chance to express themselves through writing. Groups break up because some members don’t get a chance to express themselves – which is not going to happen in this group.”
What else: In 2007, Boyz II Men paid tribute to the history of the company which broke them into the big time with an album, Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA. With the group as a trio by then, they cut such classics as the Temptations’ “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me),” the Miracles’ “The Tracks Of My Tears,” Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” and Michael Jackson’s “Got To Be There.” Said Shawn Stockman, “We wanted to pay tribute to an era that had such a major influence on our sound.”
What are the 20 most essential Motown albums? It’s a difficult choice, but this is ours, picked and presented through the course of this 60th anniversary year. Each album is featured with its background story, keyed to a relevant date in its history. This is not a countdown, leading to a “winner.” It’s just a way to showcase some of the finest music ever made. After all, isn’t that why you’re here?