After paying their dues as local favorites for the better part of the '70s, The Jones Girls finally gained national recognition in 1979 with the top-five success of "You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else." A funky dancer showcasing the siblings' classy, streamlined harmonies and primary lead vocalist Shirley's distinctively sassy yet subtle way with a lyric, the single made the trio a soulful force to watch for in the '80s. Subsequent gems like the riveting ballad, "I Just Love the Man," and the alluring "Nights over Egypt" signaled that they were on their way to securing a place alongside steady R&B hitmakers. But their chart run was shorter than expected; before long, Shirley had embarked on a solo career (notably scoring a #1 single with 1986's "Do You Get Enough Love").
In the minds of many of the group's fans, The Jones Girls' output ended in the mid-'80s. Shirley, Valorie (now deceased), and Brenda did, however, reunite during the early '90s with the independently recorded Coming Back. Released on a small scale in the UK, the album came and went without much notice—despite boasting production by Soul II Soul's Jazzie B. and several tunes co-written by Keni Burke of the Five Stairsteps. Clearly, the lack of exposure wasn't due to any cut corners on musical quality—as Expansion's new CD reissue will undoubtedly prove to first-time listeners. Flowing consistently with well-constructed tunes, meaningful performances, and fully engaging arrangements, Coming Back is an impressive showcase of the sisters' signature style and flexibility.
Coming Back's opening title track is a relatively benign midtempo number which incorporates a few elements of early-'90s urban-contemporary trends. The set's remaining 11 cuts wisely focus on a more classic soul component of The Jones Girls' style, without sounding outdated. Beginning with the smoothly swaying "When a Woman's in Love," the spotlight shines on Shirley's no-frills delivery and Brenda and Valorie's elegantly arranged complementary lines. Their serene tones floating atop the upbeat groove of "Getting on with My Own Life" are equally appealing.
Progressing through a pleasantly varied selection of songs produced by Errol Henry and Stephen Carmichael, The Jones Girls explore themes of simplicity, independence, societal stress and one-sided love. While the bonafide dance number "Merry Go Round" conveys the urgency of a romance on the rocks amidst pulsing rhythms and enticing metaphors, the confessional, mid-paced shuffler "Could Have Been Right" finds the ladies narrating the finer points of keeping intimacy alive. The most enchanting moment of Coming Back, however, comes via its closing track, "All I Want." "Never been much into money, it doesn't buy you everything," Shirley relates. "Always had a fascination with affairs of the heart/Can't give an explanation, I've always been that way right from the very start." The funky rhythmic structure and mellow keys are given extra color with a buoyant flugelhorn solo, while the Joneses sum up the relevance of devotion in an ever-changing world.
A well-proportioned mixture of slow-jams and uptempo entries makes Coming Back an ideal listen for both club-goers who sprinted across discos to "Dance Turned into a Romance" and record-buyers who relished the heart-tugging balladry of "Who Can I Run To." Hopefully, this surprising and justified reissue will turn the Jones Girls' loyal followers on to a package of gems they might have missed the first time around, while opening the doors to some new admirers. Recommended.
by Justin Kantor