A total of 27 albums topped the album charts in 1990. It was a year that saw traditional soul artists such as Anita Baker, Freddie Jackson and Johnny Gill rub shoulders with rap acts like LL Cool J, Boogie Down Productions, Master Ace and Public Enemy. UK soul also predominated with Soul II Soul, Loose Ends, Caron Wheeler and Omar all achieving No.1 status on the chart. In chronological order, here is a rundown of the Number One Soul & Dance Albums of 1990. An asterisk indicates non-consecutive weeks at the pinnacle whilst a cross refers to the album being an imported issue.
BEYOND A DREAM | By All Means | Island 1 wk
This was the second of three albums by this Californian soul trio. Their update of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On was the single taken from the LP. I’d Rather Be Lonely has since become something of a connoisseurs cut.
THAT’S HOW I’M LIVING | Tony Scott | Next Plateau+ 2 wks*
The title track was a massive hip-house hit in 1989, released by Champion in the UK. Its success was also attributable to the flipside The Chief. His real name was Peter van der Bosch and he was one of the few successful Dutch rap artists. His Love Let Love from later in the year is considered to be a New Jack Swing classic.
DONE BY THE FORCES OF NATURE | Jungle Brothers | Warner Bros. 1 wk
The group’s previous set Straight Out The Jungle was a truly original album – the track I’ll House You sparking off the short-lived hip-house phenomenon. But it was this album that really brought them to the forefront of hip-hop culture in the UK (and maybe the world) with its varied styles, sneaky samples, funny business, snappy but thoughtful lyrics and an all-embracing positive attitude. Originally released in 1989, it still stands up as one of the great hip-hop albums. Hits from the album included What “U” Waitin’ For, Doin’ Our Own Dang and Black Woman.
THIS SHOULD MOVE YA | Mantronix | Capitol 2 wks
Mantronix was a group I followed avidly. From ’85 they had rocked so many parties with classics like Needle To The Groove, Scream, Ladies, Who Is It, Simple Simon, Bassline – and had triumphed in the UK with the astonishing breaks mash-up King Of The Beats, which was a huge track on the warehouse/rare groove scene at the time. In 1989, a new direction was undertaken with the vocal track Got To Have Your Love – though Kurtis Mantronik had already had considerable success as a producer with hit songs for Joyce Sims. They had previously topped the chart with their Music Madness album back in 1986.
CLUB IT ’90 Vol.1 | Various | Supreme 1 wk
A mediocre selection of techno/electro-driven dance tracks that you can now get for 50p or less. Nuff said.
DOUG LAZY GETTIN’ CRAZY | Doug Lazy | Atlantic+ 2 wks
Doug Lazy’s Let It Roll was a seminal record of the short-lived hip-house style which was popular in the late 80s. Produced by Vaughan Mason (of Raze), this was a tune that – for a time – was absolutely everywhere. There was no escaping! Whether pumpin’ out the radio, blastin’ out of tape-decks or rockin’ clubs and parties, its infectious beats and sparse arrangement – blended with Doug’s breezy vibe – made it one of the most catchy and irresistible grooves of the time. From a genre that produced such a short clutch of classics – It Takes Two and I’ll House You among them – the track stands proudly besides the best. BIG! The album also features other hits including H.O.U.S.E., Can’t Hold Back (U No) and Let The Rhythm Pump.
PAWNS IN THE GAME | Professor Griff & The Last Asiatic Disciples | Luke Skyywalker+ 1 wk
This album arrived after the ignominious departure of Prof. Griff from the group Public Enemy. Sampling Slave’s Slide, the title track was a popular tune. The next single – The Verdict – effectively sampled The Dramatics’ Get Up And Get Down. But the album suffered from really being too much like Public Enemy.
WAREHOUSE RAVES 3 | Various | Rumour 1 wk
The second compilation album to top the charts in 1990 was a collection of mainly house and dance singles from the late 80s. It assembled tracks such as Don’t Walk Out On Love (Gallifreé feat. Moondeé Oliver), Space Talk (Hyperspaced) (Masters Of The Universe), Take Me Higher (Pisces), Acid Rock (Rhythm Device) and Candy Flip’s crossover success Strawberry Fields Forever.
SEX PACKETS | Digital Underground | BCM 1 wk
This crazy hip-hop troupe exploded in ’89 with the hilarious P-Funkin’ party animal that was Doowutchyalike. Other smashes like Freaks Of The Industry, Packet Man and the firin’ Vibrettes-sampling The Humpty Dance fuelled the fire. Loads of tracks had the New Jack Swing vibe popular at the time. It remains a fun and funky album.
FEAR OF A BLACK PLANET | Public Enemy | Def Jam 5 wks
This million-selling album was the seventh hip-hop album to top the chart in 1990 – a good indication of the growing appeal of rap music in the UK. As an album, it doesn’t quite capture the unique immediacy of PE’s amazing and jaw-dropping previous album It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. Nevertheless, it is still full of pleasant surprises and original rap rumpus – including no less than five singles including Welcome To The Terrordome, Brothers Gonna Work It Out and the awesome Fight The Power.
JOHNNY GILL | Johnny Gill | Motown 1 wk
Mainly consisting of tracks produced by L.A. Reid & Babyface and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Johnny’s third solo album was the one that got him noticed. From the New Jack Swing masterpiece Rub You The Right Way (though better on the 12” Untouchables/Pete Rock remix) to the classic lush ballad My, My, My – it was a golden opportunity for Johnny to show off his vocal chops, which are considerable. His rich baritone on the aforesaid smoocher became an immediate ravers classic in the UK.
ALL FOR YOU | Glenn Jones | Jive+ 2 wks
Glenn had been around for years and before becoming a solo artist was a singer with The Modulations. I first became aware of him on his contribution to Norman Connors’ song Melancholy Fire back in 1980. He went on to have hits with songs like I Am Somebody (1983), Show Me (1984), and Stay (1986 – later covered by in the 90s by British girl group Eternal). In fact, this album opens with his own contemporary R&B rerub of Stay which was also released as a single. NJS kingpin Teddy Riley produced the swing ballad Can We Try Again which was also released on a single. Endlessly is a beautiful slow jam which was also appealing to the ‘wallpaper’ crew.
VOL. II – 1990 A NEW DECADE | Soul II Soul | Ten 1 wk
Get A Life had already been a smash No.1 hit on the Streetsales chart and the follow-up single A Dream’s A Dream (which interpolated Rose Royce’s Wishing On A Star) also reached No.1. So it came as no surprise when the album soared to the top of the charts as well. In addition to peaking at the top of the Streetsales chart as well! The LP also topped the national charts (making it two in a row for the collective) and included Love Come Through (featuring Lamya) and the best and original version of Missing You (featuring Kym Mazelle).
AMERIKKKA’S MOST WANTED | Ice Cube | Priority+ 1 wk
It wasn’t too long before yet another hip-hop album was topping the chart, albeit just for a solitary week. Though this was also one of only three albums to also top the Streetsales singles chart that year. Late of the group N.W.A. who had kick-started so-called gangsta-rap with their Straight Outta Compton album, Cube’s first proper album was similarly uncompromising and powerful. Infused with a funk sensibility, the LP conspired to mix fluid rhymes with deep grooves. It’s an angry kinda album.
I’LL GIVE ALL MY LOVE TO YOU | Keith Sweat | Elektra 3 wks
Keith Sweat’s earlier album Make It Last Forever had topped the charts for three months back in ‘87/’88. This long-awaited follow-up album firmly cemented Sweat’s reputation as one of the new dons of R&B/soul music. Consummately combining dance tracks and ballads, Keith’s aching vocal style proved a hit all over again. The LP included the hits Your Love Pt.2 (another collaboration with his previous hit-maker Teddy Riley), Make You Sweat, the title track and Merry Go Round. Not forgetting one for the New Jack Swing connoisseurs – the killer LP-only cut Love To Love You.
COMPOSITIONS | Anita Baker | Elektra 1 wk
With three brilliant albums already to her credit, it was nothing of a revelation to find her still on solid and soulful ground for her fourth set. Unlike her previous slickly produced albums, this had more of a “live” feel to it with not so many overdubs and studio trickery. The result is a real focus on the great selection of songs, the stunning musicianship of the players – and the absolute beauty of Anita’s jazzy and expressive singing. The LP produced a smattering of singles including Soul Inspiration, Talk To Me and the fantastic Fairy Tales. The track Lonely is a testament to the lady’s talent. Soul perfection.
THERE’S NOTHING LIKE THIS | Omar | Kongo Dance 4 wks*
Of course, it wouldn’t be until the following year that British soul artist Omar would conquer the national charts (on Talkin’ Loud) with the title track of this album. Omar had been making records since he was 16 years old with tunes like Mr. Postman, Get It Out Your System, I Don’t Mind The Waiting and You And Me. Inspired by The Ohio Players song Heaven Must Be Like This, his 1990 song There’s Nothing Like This took off – making this, his debut LP, a much in-demand record. Omar had arrived. And thankfully, has never left.
TAKE A LOOK AROUND | Master Ace | Cold Chillin’ 1 wk
The opening salvo on the album, built around a Grand Funk Railroad sample, was the single Music Man. Brooklyn rapper Master Ace (also spelt Masta Ace) had scored in 1989 with the fantastic Letter To The Better (included here). He was immediately popular in the UK and even worked with UK soul groups such as Brand New Heavies and Young Disciples. I Got Ta and Me And The Biz were other big cuts on the album.
LALAH HATHAWAY | Lalah Hathaway | Virgin Records America, Inc. 1 wk
Baby Don’t Cry was a tune that the UK soul crew took to their hearts from the get-set-go – with its Strawberry Letter 23 motif. Daughter of legendary soul artist Donny Hathaway, Lalah has only recorded sporadically down the years but whenever she has, it’s been outstanding. Her debut contains a great remake of the Jaki Graham hit Heaven Knows plus the essential connoisseurs cut Smile.
EDUTAINMENT | Boogie Down Productions | Jive 2 wks
1989’s Ghetto Music: The Blueprint Of Hip-Hop had reached No.1 in the album charts the previous year. This follow-up saw KRS-One still full of fire and fury. Articulate and as opinionated as ever, some of the album comes across as hectoring due to his dogmatic style. Ya Know The Rules and Love’s Gonna Get’cha were the singles.
WORLD CLIQUE | Deee-Lite | Elektra 1 wk
Of course, Groove Is In The Heart was the tune that attracted all the attention on this album. Its crossover success (reaching No.2 on the national pop charts) paved the way for less successful records like Good Beat and Power Of Love. The group never repeated the success of their smash hit – which still remains a top tune.
MAMA SAID KNOCK YOU OUT | LL Cool J | Def Jam+ 1 wk
“Don’t call it a comeback!” he opined on the title track. But really, it was! A return to form after his disappointing albums Bigger And Deffer and Walking With A Panther. This LP saw LL regain his status and cement his reputation as one of the superstars of hip-hop. The Boomin’ System was a boomin’ tune for real and Around The Way Girl was a true R&B jam. But the title track just has to be his best record ever – with its Sly & The Family Stone-sampling grooviness and LL’s bombastic braggadocio, it sounds as infectious and eminently danceable as it did back in 1990.
LOOK HOW LONG | Loose Ends | Ten 4 wks*
The UK soul pioneers had already seen their first three albums all go to No.1 in the charts – but 1989’s uneven The Real Chuckeboo failed to make its mark. By this time, the group’s mainstay was Carl McIntosh who recruited new singers after the departure of Jane Eugene and Steve Nichol. Blending modern beats with the group’s distinctive UK vibe, the LP was a real gem. Cheap Talk, Don’t Be A Fool and Love’s Got Me were all big hits and the album also included the killer Don’t You Ever (Try To Change Me) and the nod to the New Jack Swing style – the infectious I Don’t Need To Love.
UK BLAK | Caron Wheeler | RCA 1 wk
Caron Wheeler had originally been in the award-winning female reggae trio Brown Sugar back in the late 70s. During the 80s she was in demand as a backing vocalist for various UK pop artists – including Erasure, Elvis Costello, The Specials and Howard Jones. She struck paydirt for her inestimable contribution to Soul II Soul’s success – singing lead on international hits like Back To Life and Keep On Movin’. Her debut solo album saw her collaborating with UK producers Carl McIntosh, Blacksmith, Mark Brydon as well as reggae artists like Jimmy Haynes and Steely & Clevie. The biggest hit on the album was Livin’ In The Light – but other singles also proved popular, including Blue (Is The Colour Of Pain), the title track and the uplifting Don’t Quit.
DANCE BEFORE THE POLICE COME | Shut Up And Dance | SUAD 2 wks
Carlton Hyman and Philip Johnson were behind this innovative collaboration – who fused hip-hop, techno, house and ragga to create something new and exciting. Kicking off in 1989 with singles such as £10 To Get In, 5,6,7,8 and Lamborghini, the duo’s creativity continued on this groundbreaking album. Tracks like Derek Went Mad (apparently, American producer Derrick May was not best pleased they’d appropriated one of his productions) and the title track were remixed for singles. It’s a bold album making a big statement – superior UK dance music with attitude.
DO ME AGAIN | Freddie Jackson | Capitol 1 wk
Freddie Jackson – formerly a vocalist with soul band Mystic Merlin – had already gained a reputation for his smooth ballads. Ever since his phenomenal smash Rock Me Tonight back in 1985, he had continued to create silky smoochers which really struck a chord with lovers everywhere. This album was no different – Do Me Again, the mid-tempo Main Course and Love Me Down were all decent singles. Too bland amd unadventurous for some but nevertheless very popular.
THE FUTURE | Guy | MCA 7 wks
New Jack Swing pioneer Teddy Riley had already accumulated a tremendous back catalogue of smashes by the time this album came out. Not only had he produced hits for his own Harlem trio Guy (Groove Me, Round And Round, Spend The Night, I Like, Teddy’s Jam, My Fantasy) he’d also had more than a hand in creating NJS and hip-hop classics like Bobby Brown’s My Prerogative, the remix of Jane Child’s Don’t Wanna Fall In Love, Al B. Sure!’s If I’m Not Your Lover, Johnny Kemp’s Just Got Paid, Keith Sweat’s I Want Her, Troop’s That’s My Attitude and New Jack Swing by Wrecks-N-Effect. This album introduced Damion Hall to the mix after Timmy Gatling had left. The big 12” at the time the album hit the streets was I Wanna Get With U. Teddy’s distinctive and original production techniques, combined with his innate musicianship and wonderful arrangements made the album an instant hit – it eventually spawned no less than seven singles, including Her, Let’s Chill, D-O-G Me Out, Do Me Right, Teddy’s Jam 2 and Let’s Stay Together. The CD version included extra tracks Smile, Where Did The Love Go and a great version of The Gap Band’s Yearning For Your Love. The LP had the longest stay at No.1 for the year.
As Soul II Soul stated, a new decade. A new sound? Well, loads more new sounds to be honest. Who could have predicted Shut Up And Dance? And it was the UK that led the way. With drum ‘n’ bass. jungle, garage and streetsoul waiting in the wings. My favourites of these No.1 albums most certainly include the SUAD debut – plus Guy, Anita Baker and Loose Ends. Did any of your favourites hit the top spot in 1990?