House of Music
|House of Music|
|Studio album by Tony! Toni! Toné!|
|Released||November 19, 1996|
|Recorded||September 1995 – September 1996|
|Genre||R&B, soul, funk|
|Producer||Tony! Toni! Toné! (also exec.)|
|Tony! Toni! Toné! chronology|
|Singles from House of Music|
House of Music is the fourth studio album by American R&B group Tony! Toni! Toné!, released on November 19, 1996, by Mercury Records. It is the follow-up to their critically and commercially successful 1993 album Sons of Soul. Recording sessions for the album took place at several recording studios in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Sacramento during 1995 to 1996, with production handled primarily by the group members. The album was named after a record store in the group's native Oakland.
Following their hiatus as a group, Tony! Toni! Toné! members Raphael Saadiq, D'wayne Wiggins, and Timothy Christian Riley worked on songs for the album independently before putting together their finished recordings. Collectively, they sought to emphasize musicianship rather than production technique during the sessions. House of Music expands on their previous work's traditional R&B influences with live instrumentation and balladry. Music writers have noted the album for its incorporation of traditional and contemporary musical styles, themes of love and romance, and witty, sensitive lyrics.
The album reached number 32 on the US Billboard 200, on which it charted for 31 weeks. It was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Upon its release, House of Music received general acclaim from music critics, who praised its musical style, classic influences, and the group's musicianship and songwriting. An expected international tour in support of the album did not materialize and it proved to be the group's last album together, as they subsequently disbanded due to creative differences and pursued separate music careers.
Following the commercial and critical success of their 1993 album Sons of Soul, Tony! Toni! Toné! took a hiatus as a group. During their break, the group's main members Raphael Wiggins, D'wayne Wiggins, and Timothy Christian Riley worked on songwriting and production for other recording artists, including D'Angelo, En Vogue, Karyn White, Tevin Campbell, and A Tribe Called Quest. Raphael Wiggins adopted the surname Saadiq for his professional name in 1994, meaning "man of his word" in Arabic, and released his solo single "Ask of You" in 1995. Their work outside the group led to rumors of a break-up during the time between albums.
House of Music was titled after the name of a record store in the group's native Oakland, California, which had closed several years prior to the album's release. In an interview for Billboard, D'wayne Wiggins said of naming the album, "We title all our albums at the end of the project. We sat back and listened to everything, and it reminded us of this mom-and-pop store around our way in Oakland." The album's cover and booklet photos were taken by photographer William Claxton.
Recording sessions for the album took place during September 1995 to September 1996 at various recording studios in California, including Brillian Studios and Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco, Coda Studios and Grass Roots Studios in Oakland, Encore Studios, Image Recording, and Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles, and Pookie Labs and Woodshed Studios in Sacramento. The group used vintage recording equipment and, for certain tracks, a 40-piece orchestra. In contrast to their previous work, each member arranged, composed, and produced songs on their own before putting the finished recordings together. In a 1997 interview, Saadiq said of working independently of Wiggins and Riley, "What I did was write a lot of stuff and rehearse it for about a month, then recorded it live. Then they would add their parts separately." He worked with his own recording crew, comprising guitarist Chalmers "Spanky" Alford, drummer Tommy Branford, and keyboardists Kelvin Wooten and Cedric Draper.
The album's opening track, "Thinking of You", is one song that the group conceived and recorded together. D'wayne Wiggins recounted its recording in a 1996 interview for USA Today, stating "Usually the first track we start off with sets the pace. We did it at 3 in the morning in Ray's studio in Sacramento, and we were just having fun with an Al Green vibe." Saadiq later said of developing the song, "I was just playing around and started singing off the top of my head. I never wrote anything down, it was just what came out." "Annie May", one of Wiggins' songs for House of Music, had Saadiq's backing vocals pre-recorded and subsequently overdubbed to the track's final mix.
Wiggins found the group's hiatus constructive to recording a follow-up, so as not to produce an album derivative of Sons of Soul. He said of the music in an interview for Billboard, "It's not just a bunch of grooves that we put together and made sure that the tempo fit. Lyrically and musically, it talks about something, and you're able to feel the emotional buildup that we felt when we were making the songs [...] It's funny though. Even though we did the music separately, when we got together, it all had the same kind of sound." The group intended on recording with an emphasis on musicianship rather than production. Wiggins noted a lack of synthesizers as distinctive of the music, adding that "On a lot of the songs, you can just imagine a five-piece band performing." Guest musicians for the album included rapper and producer DJ Quik, percussionist Sheila E., and the Tower of Power horn section. House of Music was mastered by audio engineer Brian Gardner at Bernie Grundman Mastering in Hollywood, California.
One of Saadiq's songs for the album, "Me and the Blind Man", was excluded from the album's final mix. Originally issued on an album sampler sent by the group's label to music journalists, the recording is a moody, bluesy song with surreal lyrics about lust, longing, and a fictitious blind man's secret powers. In a 1997 interview for Yahoo! Music, Saadiq expressed that he meant to show "a darker side [...] some depth" to listeners with the song and said of its significance to the album, "To me songs like 'Blind Man,' make the whole sound, the House of Music." He said that it was not included on the album to equally represent each group members' songwriting, stating "They didn't want anybody playing favorites, so one of my songs had to come off."
Music and lyrics
House of Music expands on the group's previous traditional R&B-influenced work with live instrumentation and an emphasis on ballads. Dan Kening of the Daily Herald describes it as "half a tribute to their '60s and '70s soul music roots and half a masterful blend of modern smooth balladeering and danceable funk." Music journalist Jennie Yabroff of Salon denotes the album's songs as primarily "ballads — long, slow, emotional numbers with muted beats" that accent their lyrics. Drum writes that mid-tempo songs such as "Thinking of You" and "Still a Man" "lean heavily on '60s soul/R&B given a contemporary face," while up-tempo songs such as "Lovin' You", "Don't Fall in Love", and "Let's Get Down" have elements of funk.
Music writers have described the songs' lyrics as witty and sensitive. Michaelangelo Matos of the Chicago Reader characterizes Saadiq's songwriting as playful and quirky, and compares his tenor singing voice to that of a young Michael Jackson. Of Wiggins' songwriting style, Matos describes his melodies and rhythms as more subtle than those of Saadiq and notes "burnished obbligatos, hushed burr, and starry-eyed falsetto" in Wiggins' singing. Saadiq alternates on lead vocals with Wiggins throughout the album. Richard Torres of Newsday attributes the group's lyrics and themes on the album to their "[belief] in the power of love and the lure of romance."
The opening track "Thinking of You" has been described by Saadiq as "a really soul, southern, funky song" whose style references that of singer Al Green. It has light guitar brushes and features him vocalizing in a Southern twang. "Top Notch" contains musical elements of jazz and psychedelic music. "Let's Get Down" features rapper DJ Quik and a dance, funk-based sound with a repeating acoustic guitar figure. Its chorus samples the bridge from Nirvana's 1991 song "Smells Like Teen Spirit". "Til Last Summer", a ballad about love lost and found, has smooth vocals by Wiggins and a mellow style similar to the group's 1993 song "Anniversary". DJ Quick contributed with triangle on the song. "Lovin' You" features prominent electric piano, a saxophone solo, a slow groove, and complex harmonies.
"Still a Man" has female backing vocalists and pleading vocals by Saadiq, who sings from the perspective of a man who was left by his wife to raise their children alone. The backing vocalists sing the song's meditative hook, "Have you ever loved somebody / Who loves you so much it hurts you to hurt them so bad?" "Don't Fall in Love" is about adult romance and advises against falling in love with a woman without becoming familiar with her. "Holy Smokes & Gee Whiz" features lighthearted lyrics by D'wayne Wiggins and lead vocals by Randall Wiggins, his and Saadiq's older brother. It has been described by one writer as an "update of the Stylistics' 'Betcha By Golly, Wow,' which contains [...] a dead-on impression of Russell Thompkins' unmistakable falsetto and precise diction."
"Annie May" is a salacious, humorous song about a lapdancer. "Let Me Know" is a traditional love song with smooth harmonies and a Wall of Sound-influenced sound. "Wild Child" features thick bass lines and heavy incorporation of the Hammond organ. Nick Krewen of The Spectator describes it as "a ballad in the grand sense of Earth, Wind and Fire's 'Be Ever Wonderful.'" "Party Don't Cry" is a meditation on mortality with jazzy, philosophical tones. Rickey Wright of the Washington City Paper writes that the song "expresses an overt spirituality unheard in the Tonyies' past songs." The closing track is a gospel-influenced instrumental and variation of "Lovin' You" composed by Saadiq. Its sole lyric is a universalist platitude.
The group's fourth album, House of Music was released on November 19, 1996, by Mercury Records. The label intended on a release date during the peak holiday shopping period and ran ad campaigns scheduled for network cable, syndicated television shows, and radio stations. Tony! Toni! Toné! inaugurated the album's release with a satellite press conference and in-store performance at a small business retailer in the San Francisco Bay Area. The album's lead single, "Let's Get Down", was sent to R&B and crossover radio on October 28. Its release was commenced with a black college concert tour and 14-city in-store tour at Black Independent Coalition record shops, while a music video was released to outlets such as BET, The Box, and MTV. Tony! Toni! Toné! performed the song as a musical guest on the sketch comedy show All That. They also performed "Let's Get Down" and "Annie May" on Soul Train. The second single "Thinking of You" was released on March 11, 1997.
The album peaked at number 32 on the US Billboard 200 chart. It spent 31 weeks on the chart. It also reached number 10 on the Billboard Top R&B Albums, spending 44 weeks on the chart. House of Music sold 318,502 copies in its first eight weeks. By March 1997, it had sold 514,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. On August 6, 1997, the album was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, for shipments of one million copies in the United States.
|Los Angeles Times|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
House of Music received general acclaim from contemporary music critics. Q called it "a startlingly diverse set ... taking in Memphis soul and Philly smooth en route to glistening swingbeat and seductive after-hours balladry." Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly praised the group's "intelligent, sometimes brilliant pastiche" and stated, "Their usual witty, tremendously likable collection appears on House of Music, with a new recurring theme: what makes a man a man and a woman a woman, explored with both frankness and slyness." Chicago Tribune writer Greg Kot complimented the album's "rich old-school feel" and "some superbly executed homages to vintage heroes," stating "The Tonys don't borrow the sound so much as an attitude, as they find rapture that is steeped in reality rather than in the upwardly mobile fantasy concocted by many of today's less tradition-conscious R&B crooners." Connie Johnson of the Los Angeles Times found it to be "a sign of their own youthful spark and ingenuity that they can make a sound so old and familiar seem new again." Robert Christgau of The Village Voice called "Thinking of You" a "hilariously gutsy Al Green hommage that knows the great man's every moue and off-beat", and wrote of the group's musical "virtuosity" with the album:
|“||Raphael Saadiq and his henchmen give the r&b revival what for, constructing a generous original style from a varied history they know inside out—Tempts, Sly, Blue Magic, Kurtis Blow. And for almost every sound they provide a sharp song, which is more than Holland–Dozier–Holland and Gamble-Huff could manage when they were compelled to stick to one. Defeating second-half trail-off and a CD-age windiness the band isn't beatwise enough to beat, Saadiq's flexible, sensitive, slightly nasal tenor, spelled by the grain of D'wayne Wiggins's workaday baritone, recasts the tradition in its image.||”|
Sonia Murray of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution dubbed the album "the most versatile and efficacious of the trio's four albums" and stated, "House of Music draws emoting tips from '60s Sam Cooke; its musicianship is powered to compete with the Earth Wind & Fire of the '70s, and its funk wrenches sweat like the early '80s work of Cameo and Brick. But in a nod to Tony Toni Tone's inventiveness, it still manages to make each masterful re-creation new and meaningful." J.D. Considine of The Baltimore Sun felt that it "is hardly a throwback [...] Instead, the Tonies serve as a sort of stylistic missing link, suggesting what would have happened had the soul styles of the '70s continued to evolve, instead of being tossed aside by the synth-driven sound of the '80s." Michael A. Gonzales of Vibe commended the group for "us[ing] their elders as sketches for their personalized, complete sound paintings," writing that "Like a blaxploitation flick soundtrack, House of Music glows a vision of blackness that is superbad, mad smooth, and crazy sexy." Gonzales described it as "a wonderland of harmonic delights, softcore jollies, and slow-jam fever floating on the tip of Cupid's arrow" and wrote that it "shows the group exploring the sensuality of black pop without sounding like boulevard bullies stalking their objects of desire."
Upon the album's release, the group dealt with growing tensions stemming from creative differences, business-related problems, and Saadiq's interest in a solo career. In an interview for Vibe at the time, Saadiq said of the situation within the group, "There's a quiet stress between us that no one really talks about. And what's sad about the whole thing is the fact that our friendship is disintegrating. Who knows, House of Music could be the last Tony Toni Toné album." However, they remained committed to promoting House of Music through 1997. On February 28, the group taped a performance for VH1's Hard Rock Live special.
According to an interview with Mercury vice president Marty Maidenberg in October 1996, an international tour in promotion of the album was expected, with concert dates in Japan and the United Kingdom, but no tour materialized. In a November 1997 interview for the Philadelphia Daily News, Saadiq said of the promotion and their record label, "There should have been like four singles from that album. You'll have to call Mercury on that. It went platinum with no promotional tour. We did our job and they made their money." They subsequently disbanded and each member pursued an individual music career.
Robert Christgau attributes the album's quality to Saadiq's lead role and asserts that "only with House of Music did they become true sons of the soul revival, the most accomplished r&b act of the '90s. That's still the album to remember them by." In a retrospective review, Allmusic editor Leo Stanley points out Tony! Toni! Toné!'s "traditional soul and R&B values of songwriting," writing that they "successfully accomplish their fusion of the traditional and contemporary [...] within the framework of memorable, catchy songs." Stanely notes their influence on neo soul artists such as Tony Rich and Maxwell at the time and writes that "House of Music continues the Tonies' tradition of excellence and demonstrates that the group is getting stronger and better all the time." Yahoo! Music's Scott Wilson praises the group's "craft" as "razor sharp by this record, and their crossover ability amazing as they infuse so many different elements into their music." Chicago Reader writer Michaelangelo Matos views that the album showcased Saadiq's and Wiggins' respective songwriting, stating "the contrast between Saadiq's and Wiggins's styles had grown so pronounced that the tension only enhanced what was already the group's best batch of songs."
Rashod Ollison of The Virginian-Pilot calls the album "a flawless gem" and writes of its musical significance, "Their amalgamation of traditional and contemporary styles coalesced beautifully. Their influences [...] are apparent throughout. But the Tonys never come off as imitators. Their winking sense of humor and passion for tradition flow in well-structured songs, glimmering with smart modern touches. The melodies are sturdy and memorable, qualities rarely found in modern R&B." In The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), Rolling Stone journalist Fred Schruers gives the album five out of five stars and comments on its significance to R&B, "House of Music consolidates the triumph of Sons of Soul for a masterpiece of 1990s R&B, an album that is as steeped in soul tradition as anything by Maxwell or D'Angelo, but that mixes the homage with humor and deft contemporary touches, thereby creating a new space all its own [...] Though the 70-minute disc doesn't deliver hooks from start to finish, the mood and groove never falter, standing with the best product ever put together by Gamble and Huff."
|1.||"Thinking of You"||Timothy Christian Riley, Raphael Saadiq, D'wayne Wiggins||Tony! Toni! Toné!||3:56|
|2.||"Top Notch"||Elijah Baker, Saadiq, Kelvin Wooten||Raphael Saadiq||4:37|
|3.||"Let's Get Down" (featuring DJ Quik)||George Archie, David Blake, Saadiq||Raphael Saadiq, DJ Quik, G-One||4:57|
|4.||"Til Last Summer"||Riley, John T. Smith, Wiggins||D'wayne Wiggins, Timothy Christian Riley||5:11|
|5.||"Lovin' You"||Saadiq||Raphael Saadiq||5:52|
|6.||"Still a Man"||Saadiq||Raphael Saadiq||7:17|
|7.||"Don't Fall in Love"||Saadiq||Raphael Saadiq||4:44|
|8.||"Holy Smokes & Gee Whiz"||Michelle Hailey, Carl Wheeler, Wiggins||D'wayne Wiggins||5:01|
|9.||"Annie May"||Riley, Wiggins||D'wayne Wiggins||5:55|
|10.||"Let Me Know"||Chalmers Alford, Saadiq||Raphael Saadiq||4:15|
|11.||"Tossin' & Turnin'"||Wiggins||D'wayne Wiggins||4:48|
|12.||"Wild Child"||Saadiq||Raphael Saadiq||5:36|
|13.||"Party Don't Cry"||Riley, Wiggins||D'wayne Wiggins, Timothy Christian Riley||5:06|
|14.||"Lovin' You (Interlude)"||Saadiq||Raphael Saadiq||1:53|
Credits for House of Music adapted from liner notes.
|US Billboard 200||32|
|US Billboard Top R&B Albums||10|
|"Let's Get Down"||New Zealand Singles Chart||8|
|UK Singles Chart||33|
|US Billboard Hot 100 Airplay||30|
|US Billboard Hot R&B Airplay||4|
|"Thinking of You"||New Zealand Singles Chart||36|
|US Billboard Hot 100||22|
|US Billboard Hot R&B Singles||5|
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