Jam & Lewis are back for the first time with ‘Volume One’

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NEW YORK (AP) – If anyone’s wondering how old they are to try something new, look no further than iconic music producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

“As we got older, we realized that there are fewer first times you actually experience things,” Jam said. “For us, all the first times are very exciting.”

Despite nearly four decades in the business, five Grammys, and widespread reverence in the recording industry, the producer-songwriter duo known as Jam & Lewis recently achieved a major goal: they released their debut album.


“Music has always been a part of our lives, but we took time to do important things that were basically raising our children,” said Jam, two-time president of the Recording Academy. “Now we are selfish again. “

“Jam & Lewis, Volume One,” which landed at No. 49 on Billboard’s Independent Albums chart, is a 10-song project featuring a large number of R&B singers. Some are former collaborators, such as Mariah Carey, Usher, Mary J. Blige and Boyz II Men. Others are new partnerships such as Toni Braxton, Babyface and The Roots.

“There’s something we call the ‘hang factor’, and I don’t like working with people if I can’t hang out with them,” Lewis explained. “We hang in there, we try to find out what the vision is, and then we start to try to create that vision. “

The Blocking Factor has helped birth recordings like “Somewhat Loved” with Carey, who currently sits at No. 10 on Billboard’s Adult R&B chart, a mid-tempo track featuring her emotionally about the song. ‘lost love. “He Don’t Know Nothin ‘Bout It,” which peaked at # 4 on the same chart, mirrors Babyface’s slow jams as he tries to persuade a woman that she deserves better. There’s also a typical Toni Braxton sound on “Happily Unhappy,” a beautiful heartbreak song that’s so timeless it could have been released two decades ago, but still feels perfect today.

Dubbing their sound “New Nostalgia”, the album doesn’t push the boundaries or delve into the tricky rhythms, heavy Auto-Tune and sung vibe of much of today’s R&B. They chose to stick with the traditional soul sounds that made these 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees such a big hit.

“It wasn’t like we had a bunch of songs and it was like ‘Let’s do these songs.’ It was like… let’s make the perfect song for each artist, “Jam said.” We want fans to fall back in love – or remember why they fell in love – with these artists. But we also want artists to fall in love with them again. ‘themselves.

Jam, 64, born James Harris III, and Lewis, 62, grew up in Minneapolis with its lively 1970s local music scene. Jam attended college with Prince, and a reunion after high school led them to start playing. play with Morris Day and the Time, with Prince doing most of the writing and production. (The day is also featured on the album.)

After disagreeing on projects outside of The Time, Prince fired them, sparking Jam and Lewis’s career as a producer. “There isn’t a day when we don’t think about him and think about it while we’re making music. “I think Prince would like that. I think he would approve of that. He would love what we are doing here, Jam said with a smile.

The duo have helped create hits for SOS, Chaka Khan, George Michael, New Edition and more, including classics like the haunting “Optimistic” by Sounds of Blackness, “No More Drama” by Mary J. Blige , “Rhythm Nation” by Janet Jackson, “” Scream, “a collaboration with her legendary brother Michael, and” Open My Heart “by gospel icon Yolanda Adams.

They are the origin of more than 50 Billboard No. 1 songs on the pop, R&B and dance charts, all while donning their iconic all-black costumes. (“All the decisions you have to make throughout a day, if you can make a decision, that just leaves a hole for other thinking,” Lewis explained.)

Jam & Lewis say they strayed from their original album plans after helping propel Janet’s mundane early music career to superstar rank by managing most of her hit 1986 album “Control” , thus establishing them as in-demand producers.

Now they have come full circle to finish what they started. But there is one glaring omission on “Vol. 1”: Miss Jackson.

“There’s a lot of people, a lot of music, a lot of great artists… we’re going to try to cover them all if we can make it happen,” Jam said. “But Janet would be absolutely wonderful. And there is a placeholder (on) ‘Volume Two’ for her.

While the nostalgic new sound features artists who may be at the end of their careers, Jam & Lewis still has their ears turned to the future.

“We’ve kind of collaborated with HER on the song ‘Damage’,” Lewis said of the Herb Alpert hit song “Making Love in the Rain” they wrote and produced. “It would be great to do something totally from scratch with ELLE”

The Music Brothers say they didn’t care if critics might think now is the time to release an album. One of the remaining items on their bucket list includes live instrument play as they perform for fans.

It’s been 35 years since “Control” launched his career as a producer, but unwittingly delayed some of his personal ambitions. So, are there any regrets?

“For me, it’s God’s timing,” Jam said. “Everything is going as it is supposed to be.”

___ Follow Associated Press entertainment reporter Gary Gerard Hamilton on twitter.com/GaryGHamilton

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