When a member of a talented group is related to a legendary talent, the expectations to reach a plateau of success can be high. The expectations may be even higher if your roots are among the Motown Records royalty. Vocal quintet L'Stubbs has a huge legacy in their corner. The group members come from the next generation of two Motown stars: the late Levi Stubbs, Jr., lead vocalist for The Four Tops, and Joe (Joe Joe) Stubbs from The Contours and The Falcons. For the past five years, Levi and Joe's sister, Thelma Stubbs-Mitchell, along with Levi's four nieces, Pamela Fuller, Sheila Stubbs-Taylor, Ronda and Robin Pierce, have kept busy within the Detroit music scene. Their efforts earned them a nomination last year for The Detroit Black Music Awards in the category of Best R&B Singing Group. Though L'Stubbs enjoyed fruits of their labors as regional entertainers, their goal of being recognized on a national level has been a long time coming.
Before establishing their own path to stardom, the quintet was performing in different configurations: Phase III, Starfire, Guest Stars and The Stubbs Girls. As Phase III, the trio of Sheila, Thelma and Pam joined Levi in one of many songs dedicated to the Motor City , "The Detroit Song." Mostly known as an opening act, they had the privilege of sharing the stage with legends The Temptations, Roy Ayers, The Four Tops and Will Downing. They have been called on numerous occasions to perform concerts to inspire the youth and for various Michigan state political campaigns. With an impressive resume of over five years as entertainers and motivators, the ladies still worked their ‘day' jobs. L'Stubbs' big break finally came two years ago as they signed to Atlanta label Crew Records, co-owned by Gladys Knight & The Pips' member William Guest. To promote their long-awaited debut, Here We Are, the quintet proceeded on a twenty city tour.
Duke Fakir, the last original member of The Four Tops, intros Here We Are by stating "Evidently, Levi Stubbs' genes have passed down into this wonderful family." Sometimes, there are moments where Levi's inevitable talents are apparent. The silky smooth jazzy R&B tones of "Baby Come to Me," "All is Well" and "Hey There Love" bring out the best of L'Stubbs' vocal capabilities. Catering to the younger audiences, "I'm Dreamin'" provides a snappy rhythm track and delivers one of the captivating lead vocals on this disc. "Should've Known Better," a duet with Thelma and Robin, takes a brief detour with some smoky blues business. Finally "You Can't Change," certainly inspired by rock/R&B mix of "Free Your Mind" by En Vogue, absolutely lights a fire under all the vocalists with the strongest group performance on Here We Are.
While the L'Stubbs ladies certainly show their talents throughout the disc, Here We Are is not uniformly equal to the talent of the group. The vocals are at times too safe, and combined with some lackluster production (especially on "Love Finds Love," where the powerful voice of Frank Reid from The Chi-Lites is lost) make Here We Are just average fare. The good news is that there are enough positive elements to the disc that you can't help but believe that L'Stubbs will ultimately meet the expectations that have been heaped on them. They have the vocal chops that match their legendary last name; it is just a matter of next time letting them loose. Moderately Recommended.
By Peggy Oliver