Toni Braxton, Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edwards head back into the studio again to record a terrific CD featuring nothing but duets
In 1992, Kenny “Babyface” Edwards and Antonio “L.A.” Reid recruited Toni Braxton to record a demo of Love Shoulda Brought You Home for the soundtrack of the Eddie Murphy comedy Boomerang.
The song had been intended for Anita Baker but Baker, who was pregnant at the time, did not record it and suggested they use Braxton instead.
At the time, Braxton was not a major player, performing primarily with her sisters.
Braxton’s version of Love Shoulda Brought You Home eventually made it onto the soundtrack.
So, too, did a duet Braxton recorded with Edwards called Give U My Heart.
That duet proved to be a huge hit, reaching No. 29 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and going all the way to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart.
Some 20-odd years and almost as many Grammy Awards later, Braxton and Edmonds decided it was time to go back into the studio together and take another shot at it.
This time, however, the plan was to record not one duet but a whole record full of duets.
A number of artists have released records comprised solely of duets, but usually a different guest artist is featured on each track.
To record an album featuring almost wall-to-wall duets by the same two artists takes a certain amount of chutzpah because even when you’re good you run the risk of turning people off by subjecting them to too much of a good thing.
Fortunately in the case of Braxton and Edwards they got it right.
The strength of the material on Love, Marriage & Divorce and the caliber of their performances is such that you are drawn in from the outset and you stay with them until the last bittersweet note fades away.
Roller Coaster, which kicks off the album, suggests love, like a roller coaster, is a wild ride with plenty of ups and downs.
That theme runs through much of the record with Braxton and Edwards taking a serious but not unbalanced look at what it takes to make relationships work and what happens when they don’t.
They explore how people deal with the hurt, the anger, the bitterness and how they pick up the pieces and move on.
That the material has both depth and impact is not surprising given that Edmonds and Braxton know of what they speak. Both have dealt with failed relationships and divorce and know full well what the collapse of a relationship can do to you. You feel what they feel.
That’s what good songwriting is all about.
I’m usually not big on ballad heavy records, but in the case of Love, Marriage & Divorce I was sold after just one pass through. Then again you’re talking about two of the best soul/R&B singers of the last three decades. The chemistry between Braxton and Edmonds is extraordinary.
And that chemistry extended beyond what they did when they cleared their throats.
Love, Marriage & Divorce was a collaboration in the truest sense of the word.
In addition to performing together Braxton and Edmonds shared both the writing credits and the role of producer.
That this record has already found its way to the upper reaches of Billboard’s soul/R&B charts doesn’t surprise me at all.
Nor will I be surprised if it’s nominated for next year’s Grammy Awards.
Choice offerings here include the first two singles, Hurt You and Where Did We Go Wrong, as well as Roller Coaster, Broke, The D Word and I Wish.
I have to add that the timing of the record is interesting, coming just a week or so before Valentine’s Day.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Doug Gallant, a reporter with The Guardian, writes his music review column for The Guardian every week. He welcomes comments from readers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 629-6000, ext. 6057.