Star Power

by: Norman Connors

This perfectly titled disc featuring many of the most indelible names in R&B and the classic quiet storm format fits in perfectly with Shanachie Records' urban jazz aesthetic, which has included many all-star tribute albums amidst the solo recordings by its diverse roster. But rather than dub this a valentine to mostly classic R&B songs with a few new tracks created in its spirit, it's actually a more personal reflection by superstar R&B/jazz drummer/producer Connors, whose vast résumé as an artist and presence behind the boards (and skins) over the years has netted him an incredible Rolodex. Like Quincy Jones crafting a loving look back at where his chosen genre has been and where it's going, Connors oversees amazingly rendered, sweet and sensuous sessions with Peabo Bryson ("You Are My Starship"), Howard Hewett (a duet with Antoinette Manganas on her sultry ballad "Where Do We Go from Here"), singer Christopher Williams ("Used to Be"), Norman Brown (the lush instrumental "Shades of Brown"), Bobby Lyle, Ray Parker, Jr. (guitar crackling on "Rock with You"), et al. While he contributes drums and percussion on a few tracks, Connors is mostly the executive here, arranging and producing his way through the landscape of magical quiet storm soul. It's an album of mostly old hits redone in a contemporary urban groove style, finding new life in famed hits like Sade's "The Sweetest Taboo" and "Walk on By," but the real heart and soul here for Connors is the Bryson-charmed redux of "You Are My Starship," a 1976 chart-topping track he produced for Michael Henderson that became something of a genre anthem and was later sampled by LL Cool J and Snoop Dogg. Adding emotional weight to the track is a tender sax solo by Marion Meadows. There's a lot of Star Power here just as the title promises, but Connors holds it all together and keeps the egos in check with style and cool to spare. ~ Jonathan Widran

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