Love: The new album by Boyz II Men, set for release on November 17, 2009 on Decca.
Love: A collection of timeless songs from the heart, one that spans multiple genres and generations.
Working once again with Motown producer Randy Jackson, Boyz II Men (Wanya Morris, Nate Morris, Shawn Stockman) bring their distinctive individual voices and peerless harmonies to bear on songs made famous by Bonnie Raitt, The Manhattans, Journey, The Spinners, Sam Cooke, the Beatles, and Cyndi Lauper. Boyz II Men weave these diverse selections together into an album-length symphony, one that flows seamlessly from an impassioned "I Can't Make You Love Me" through the shimmering a cappella sound of "Time After Time" to "When I Fall In Love," a beautiful reworking of a great American standard featuring Boyz II Men's special guest Michael Bublé.
Love is the successor to Boyz II Men's Decca label debut, Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA (Decca/Universal), released November 13, 2007. This collection of Detroit soul classics took the interna¬tional music scene by storm to a degree that surprised even the group members. Motown rose to No. 27 on the Billboard Top 200 and to No. 6 on the trade's R&B Albums chart; proportionately, sales in Europe and other territories were even stronger than in the U.S. The album earned two Grammy Award nomina¬tions, for "Best R&B Album" and "Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals" (for the Stevie Wonder cover "Ribbons In The Sky") and sparked the release of Boyz II Men's first full-length live concert DVD, Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA - Live (Decca/Universal, released 12/9/07).
"The success of Motown definitely upped our visibility insofar as being able to tour more, in bigger venues, in more cities and more countries," says Shawn Stockman. "We were already an international touring company" - in a typical 12-month period, Boyz II Men performs 150-200 concerts around the world - "but Motown helped extend our reach even further."
"The beautiful thing was that we already had shows booked in Europe and Japan, as we've done almost every year for many years," Wanya Morris explains. "But performing the Motown songs was the best album promotion we could have done. And we felt the same effect back in the States as we did overseas, even in places like Billings, Montana and Salt Lake City, Utah.
"The excitement that built up as we went along through 2008 was reminiscent of the old days. The audience doesn't forget, necessarily, but the audience sometimes needs to be reminded." Nate Morris says simply: "Our fan base came back. A lot of them didn't know what we'd been up to for the past eight or ten years. Motown put the awareness out that there that Boyz II Men were still around, still making quality music - it launched us into a new future."
Even before the group's months of touring came to an end, Boyz II Men and their creative team were brainstorming the next album. Nate Morris was the first to advocate for the theme of Love: "There were a couple of different ideas raised beforehand - a doo-wop album, an Eighties album, a Motown II album - but I never felt really comfortable until we hit on the Love concept. That is the feeling that Boyz II Men have been giving our listeners since the beginning."
"People would have expected us to do a whole bunch of R&B love songs: Teddy Pendergrass, Marvin Gaye, the Isley Brothers," says Wanya. "Now that repertoire certainly would not have made for a bad album, but it would've made for a more limited album. In going for classic love songs period - not just R&B, not just pop, but music - we made an album that challenged us."
"We didn't know how it would work at first," adds Shawn, "because the repertoire is so wide-ranging. Fortunately, it all came together - and better than I expected, personally. I really didn't think it was gonna fly! But as we started picking the songs and got into recording, as we heard how the arrangements came together, then I was like, `okay, now I understand this.'
Working mainly in two Los Angeles studios (Henson and Westlake), Randy Jackson a core band to play on all twelve tracks of Love. (Track 13 is the a cappella version of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time.") Most of the musicians - including drummer Michael Bland, bassist Lloyd "Sonny" Thompson, and guitarist Mike Scott - are current or former accompanists with that most demanding of musical taskmas¬ters, Prince.
"That's another element that made it a great recording process," Stockman recalls, "because these guys were already a real band. They knew exactly what to do, they each knew how the others played -- and we got to hear a couple of good Prince stories!"
The vocal arrangements for a Boyz II Men album "are not something that can be done by just one person or even two of us," says Nate. "It's the totality of the group. One of us may hear one approach to the song and another guy may hear a different approach, but by the time we get to the end of the process, every¬one's had their input."
The trio's heavy touring commitments meant that time was of the essence in the creation of Love. "Here again, I think we showed that Boyz II Men is a group to be reckoned with," Wanya declares proudly. "We had a full touring schedule and a limited amount of time for the studio - and the results made some people say, `wow, they made this album in two months? An album of this caliber, from the basic band tracks to final mastering - how was this group able to do that?'"
As Nate, Wanya, and Shawn look ahead to their 20th anniversary, they reflect on the things that have kept Boyz II Men not just together over two decades but on track in pursuit of new career highs and horizons.
Shawn Stockman: "I think it's respect: respect for each other's abilities, for what we each bring to the table, respect for each other as men. We try to give each other space, room to breathe, room to grow - because we're not just Boyz II Men, we're also husbands and fathers, sons and brothers, members of our communities. At this point, there are no egos: We know we all built this thing together and we're all in it together."
Wanya Morris: "I believe what's kept us standing is our love for the music, our respect for one another, and our love for God...The connection that we have is like a marriage - and a marriage is supposed to be forever. Music brought us together and music keeps us together. To be able to finish each other's phrases and each other's ad-libs - that's a bond `no man can tear asunder,' so to speak. Anyone who listens to a Boyz II Men album like Love or who comes to see a Boyz II Men show, they'll feel that passion, that connection between us."
Nate Morris: "It's all about the songs. We got together as a group because we loved the way we sounded together. We turned people into Boyz II Men fans not because of the bowties, not because of the dance steps, but because of the songs. A group can last as long for as its songs, and the songs on Love are as strong as any we've ever sung."