Chicago native Byron Woods has been a regionally popular singer/songwriter for 30 years and has fronted multiple singing groups with his pleasant tenor and smooth falsetto voice.
Woods first made a name for himself in the Windy City in the mid-70s with the vocal group Heet (later called Brandi). In the 80s he became lead singer for the Chicago group Onstage (which also included singer Mike Logan). Onstage recorded a few singles that received regional attention (and some UK airplay) in the mid-80s. During that period, Woods also wrote with now-deceased Motown artist, Gary Glenn (who later composed "Caught Up in the Rapture" for Anita Baker). In the 90s Woods served as a backing singer for Phil Perry, who became a mentor to the young vocalist.
In 2004 Woods released his long-awaited solo debut, In the Land of Smooth, on the UK soul label, Expansion Records. Smooth, which is co-produced by old friend Logan, is a solid display of Woods' appealing voice and a throwback to the Philadelphia sounds of the 70s. The Woods-penned title track sounds like a Delfonics cut, circa 1972, and his "Fly Away" (an 80s composition with Glenn) and "Special Kind of Woman" are great examples of PIR-style adult-oriented nighttime music, updated with classy arrangements. The Philly influence is even more explicit with Woods' covers of the Spinners' great "He'll Never Love You" (a duet with the Logan, who is a fine vocalist) and the Stylistics' "Payback is a Dog." Best of all is his faithful rendition of the Natural Four's classic "Can This Be Real." While the new material on the disc contributed by other writers is not as strong, In the Land of Smooth is a solid and long-overdue mass introduction to this talented Soul singer.
By Chris Rizik