Lost Gem: Phyllis Hyman found the “Hottest Love Around”

During the late 1980s and early ‘90s, the late Phyllis Hyman experienced a much-deserved career resurgence with several albums for Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International Records. Beginning with 1987’s Living All Alone and its poignant title cut, Hyman at last found a comfortable corner of her own in the R&B world with material which made the most of her powerful pipes and sultry specialties while reviving her chart presence in America and beyond.

During the late 1980s and early ‘90s, the late Phyllis Hyman experienced a much-deserved career resurgence with several albums for Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International Records. Beginning with 1987’s Living All Alone and its poignant title cut, Hyman at last found a comfortable corner of her own in the R&B world with material which made the most of her powerful pipes and sultry specialties while reviving her chart presence in America and beyond.

Hyman’s second album for PIR, 1991’s strikingly versatile and personal Prime of My Life, afforded her three successful singles: “Don’t Wanna Change the World” (her first #1 R&B single), “Living in Confusion,” and “When You Get Right down to It.” The B-side of the latter release was a charming ballad entitled “I Found Love,” which picked up enough airplay to chart on its own. With that renewed interest, the label issued a promotional single to radio also featuring a breezy midtempo gem previously issued only in Japan, “Hottest Love Around.” More than a decade later, the cut would finally surface commercially in the UK on the Expansion label’s compilation, In Between the Heartaches.

Almost 20 years later, in 2021 “Hottest Love Around” received more widespread exposure with inclusion on SoulMusic Records’ nine-CD box set, Old Friend. The slightly jazzy number is adorned with swashes of glistening keyboards, atmospheric horn flourishes, and lightly punctuated percussion touches enveloping Hyman’s trademark melding of smoky alto phrasing, impassioned belting at just the right moments, and gently intense dynamic variations from verse to chorus. Accented by a polished backing vocal arrangement, she takes the cool cut to affecting heights that find just the right balance of smoothness and strength.

Take a moment to revisit the Lost Gem that is Phyllis Hyman’s “Hottest Love Around,” and check out SoulMusic Records’ extensive retrospective, Old Friend—The Deluxe Collections 1976-1998.

by  Justin Kantor

 

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