Reviewed on this page:
Wall To Wall - Rise -
Street Called Desire - Sharp - Destination Love - The Real
Thing - Àngela Winbush
Àngela Winbush is a "three-hyphen" musician - producer-
arranger-composer-performer - who had a big impact on Urban
Contemporary charts in the late 80s, originally as part of the duo
René and Àngela, and is still around today. She
creates enveloping tracks (either moody and introspective or lively
and bouncy) with layers of keyboards, gorgeous melodic hooks and
lush vocals. She has a powerful voice, an exceptional range and a
unique style - she started out as a backup singer for Stevie Wonder among others. Lyrically, she
writes nothing but love songs, but with real feeling and
originality, never trite. She's one of a handful of women in her generation - along
with Patrice Rushen and Brenda Russell - who produced not only
their own material but also other artists', working
extensively with, among others, the Isley
Brothers (she was married to Ronald
Isley for most of the 90s). (DBW)
René & Angela (René and Àngela: 1980)
René Moore's intention was to carry on the funky soul
tradition of Rufus, so he brought in his
brother Bobby Watson (Rufus' bass player) to produce with somebody
named Skip Drinkwater. Another Rufus member, Tony Maiden, appears
as a sideman, and the group does indeed sound like late
70s Rufus, though with more muted vocals. The uptempo tracks are
unmemorable ("Turn It Out"; "Free And Easy"), but Winbush's distinctive way with a
ballad is beginning to appear on the singles "Everything We Do" and the midtempo
"Do You Really Love Me," both of which hovered around the outskirts of
the R&B Top 40. Weirdly enough, the pop-soul cover of "Hotel California" is bearable.
Wall To Wall (René and Àngela: 1981)
By now the duo were producing (with Watson) as well as writing, and
they move into a more Wonder-like style,
with both the uptempo tunes and ballads based on synth lines. "I
Love You More," the duo's biggest hit for Capitol which nearly reached
the R&B Top 10, is just another knockoff of Chic's "Good Times." The other singles were
"Imaginary Playmates" and the title track, but the standout tracks
are the stomping groove "Secret Rendezvous" and the ballad "Come On By." (DBW)
Plush (Plush: 1982)
Watson, Moore and Winbush produced the debut for this group, sort of a Shalamar clone made up of Siedah Garrett, Tony Phillips and Ambrose Price II. R&A didn't push themselves too hard for new material: "Free And Easy" and "Strangers Again" are recycled from their own debut album. Two songs were written by band members, "Gonna Get Ya" and "Living For Your Love."
Generally it's midtempo grooves, soothing and not particularly distinctive ("I Don't Know"; "We Got The Love" - both Garrett leads), occasionally showing the buzzing synths that would be more prominent on future releases ("Burnin' Love," the single).
The same year, the team also produced half of Janet Jackson's debut.
Rise (René and Àngela: 1983)
Again, Moore and Winbush wrote everything; most of the compositions are high quality, and even the also-rans have their moments (Winbush's multitracked vocals carry the uptempo title track even though its main riff is lifted from Rufus's "You Got The Love").
The singles were the horn-driven, EWF-influenced "Bangin' The Boogie" and the shimmering ballad "My First Love" (Moore sings the first verse before turning things over to Winbush).
The sound is transitional: drums and synth are more mechanical and insistent than on Wall To Wall ("Keep Runnin'"), but not as much as Street Called Desire would have.
Supporting musicians include Watson, Da Costa, Maiden, Andre Fischer, Jeff Lorber and the Brothers Johnson.
After this record didn't hit, the duo jumped ship to Mercury.
Street Called Desire (René and Àngela: 1985)
The success of this album put Winbush on the R&B map, with three
hit singles: "Save Your Love (For #1)," the title cut, and the
lovely ballad "Your Smile." Bruce Swieden joins Watson,
René and Àngela as a producer. The record sounds
dated to me, with stark synth lines and in-your-face 4/4 drums:
most of the tracks are unmistakably mid-80s pop, and it doesn't
help that Moore isn't a distinctive singer. "Who's Foolin' Who" is
a serious dance groove, but it sounds like it could have been
released by any of two dozen R&B acts. Kurtis Blow drops by to rap
on the title track, and percussion is by (you guessed it) Paulinho Da Costa. (DBW)
With Moore out of the way, Winbush puts the spotlight on her
vocals, to chilling effect on "You Had A Good Girl" and the
fantastic ballad "Angel," which went to #1 on the R&B chart.
Divided into a "Slammin' Side" and a "Quiet Storm Side" -- the
uptempo tunes ("Sensual Lover," title track, "C'Est Toi") are
effective but a bit generic; the Quiet Storm tracks are far better:
no one else puts such a propulsive kick into slower numbers like
"No One Has Ever Cared (Like You)." There's also an unexceptional
duet with Ronald Isley, "Hello Beloved." (DBW)
In 1988 Winbush produced two tracks on Sheena Easton's The Lover In Me.
Destination Love (René Moore: 1988)
Winbush had no involvement with this project, but I'm listing it on this page because as far as I know it's Moore's only solo album. He produced and wrote everything; the musicians are his usual compatriots: Watson, Maiden, Da Costa, etc, plus a couple of other session cats like Russ Kunkel. But I don't know why he bothered to use live musicians at all, because the sound is completely computerized and lifeless, mostly aiming for dancefloor edginess and failing ("All Or Nothing," "Your Love Is Like No Other".)
The record's best moment is a weak Wonderesque ballad, "I Count The Hours." Everything else is overlong, overprogrammed, and downright annoying. (DBW)
The Real Thing (1989)
I don't remember this being commercially successful, which is a
shame: it's her most focused work, and not one track is a
throwaway. On the opening "It's The Real Thing" she convincingly
pulls off the street vibe that sounded kind of forced on "Sharp"
and "Save Your Love (For #1) -- she also truly sounds like she's
having fun, and throws in an amusing sample of Tone-Loc's "Wild
Thing." The fast dance tracks that sounded artificial before are
personalized here: the combination of live bass and warmer synth
patches works wonders on "No More Tears" and "Thank You Love."
There's also a pile of her distinctive ballads ("I've Learned To
Respect (The Power Of Love)") and the best Isley duet so far, "Lay
Your Troubles Down," where she makes maximum use of her vocal
range; the layered backing vocals on "Precious" are positively Prince-like. There's also uncategorizable
midtempo work like "Menage À Trois" - funky and tough, but
sweet underneath. Maiden and Paul Jackson are on rhythm
guitar, Nathan East and Sekou
Bunch split bass duties, and Greg Phillinganes adds some
Àngela Winbush (1994)
On this release she seems a bit unsure of herself: the single
"Treat U Rite" was written and produced by Chuckii Booker, and she
resorts to a Marvin Gaye
cover ("Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)") in two hip hop-
flavored versions. As usual, there's one duet with Ronald Isley,
"Baby Hold On." The tone is a bit muted; her sensual ballads are as
good as ever ("Hot Summer Love") but there's not much of the
slamming soul/funk ("Dream Lover" is the closest thing, and it's
still pretty slow). Since there's no must-have single, this is
really of interest only to her fans. The top studio musicians
include East, Gerald Albright and George Duke. (DBW)
In 1996, Winbush contributed one song ("All I Want For Christmas") to an Island holiday compilation.
What, didn't we treat u rite?