Full Force - With Love From Our Friends (2014)

Full Force
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If you were a teenager or young adult in the 1980s and had an affinity for R&B, that's probably when you first encountered the self-contained music-making collective known as Full Force. Comprised of three brothers (Paul Anthony, B-Fine and Bow-Legged Lou) and three cousins (Baby Gerry, Curt-T-T and Shy Shy) hailing out of Brooklyn NY, the sextet produced one of the decade's biggest hip-hop hits, UTFO's "Roxanne Roxanne," and became all but inescapable thanks to creating smash songs for various groups and artists. Don't front: you can probably still remember dedicating their collabo with Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, "All Cried Out," to your snake of an ex-boyfriend, dancing away to Samantha Fox's "I Wanna Have Some Fun" and kicking off House Party-esque battles to "Ain't My Type Of Hype," to name only a few.  

If you were a teenager or young adult in the 1980s and had an affinity for R&B, that's probably when you first encountered the self-contained music-making collective known as Full Force. Comprised of three brothers (Paul Anthony, B-Fine and Bow-Legged Lou) and three cousins (Baby Gerry, Curt-T-T and Shy Shy) hailing out of Brooklyn NY, the sextet produced one of the decade's biggest hip-hop hits, UTFO's "Roxanne Roxanne," and became all but inescapable thanks to creating smash songs for various groups and artists. Don't front: you can probably still remember dedicating their collabo with Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, "All Cried Out," to your snake of an ex-boyfriend, dancing away to Samantha Fox's "I Wanna Have Some Fun" and kicking off House Party-esque battles to "Ain't My Type Of Hype," to name only a few.  

Today, while many of their peers only resurface from time to time on throwback CDs and 'where are they now' shows, Full Force has continued to "get busy" nearly 30 years after their self-titled debut on the strength of their 80s/90s classics and hits engineered for a new era of performers (Britney Spears, Selena, Rihanna, N'Sync, The Backstreet Boys, Ashanti and the Black Eyed Peas, etc.). Longevity like theirs deserves celebrating, which explains the ambition and exuberance heard in their star-studded tenth studio CD, Full Force: With Love From Our Friends. 

If you enjoy the TV One series Unsung, you already know that their revelatory 2012 episode revealed Paul Anthony's 2006 battle with Mantle Cell Lymphoma, a rare bone marrow cancer.  ....With Love is dedicated to his remission status and Anthony's continuing efforts to raise awareness and others still fighting the disease. The CD's approach will probably remind listeners of a family reunion, thanks to its affectionate assembly, impressive roster of revelers and moments oscillating between new school and nostalgic. 

Full Force's generosity and versatility as musicians is demonstrated by the who's who list of collaborators: Mr. Anthony and Co. provide their signature sound as 'hosts' while their big-name buddies add to the festivities, update a classic performance or land somewhere in-between. "Your Love Makes Me High," with Raphael Saadiq, injects some neo-soul flavor; Big Daddy Kane, Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Blair Underwood wax poetic on the delightful "Do U Believe In Heaven," and Tisha Campbell-Martin competently renders an updated "All Cried Out," with Bow-Legged Lou's vocals just as imploring as they had been when the song catapulted to the top of the charts in 1986. Faith Evans' opener, "I Feel Good, I Look Good," is a joyful tribute to recovery and Cheryl "Pepsii" Riley and Me'Lisa Morgan kiss off a clown with the gladness-filled grown-woman ballad, "Thank You For Leaving Me" (ouch!).

The remainder of With Love contains four songs from Full Force ("I Can't Thank You Enough," with Force MD's Richard Rescigno and the revisitation to "Roxanne, Roxanne [The New Chapter]" with the original UTFO, Roxanne Shante and Bow-Legged's son, Louie Lou, are best of them), moments of gospel ("From These Lips To God's Ear," with Regina Belle, Howard Hewett, The God Good Choir and Ms. Riley), dance numbers (CeCe Peniston's "A Night That We Will Never Forget," and Full Force's Samantha Fox-sampling "Dance Dance, Throw Ur Hands Up In The Air") and love songs that pour on varying levels of sap and sentimentality. Think of the reunion concept again: a few favorites from the buffet table are great, but too many at once can result in bloat and sensory overload (small helpings work best).

Given how long Full Force has been in the biz, this tribute is sincere and well-earned: is it creaky in a few places and doing too much in others? Sure, but those flaws can be overlooked when a gift is painstakingly presented, warms the heart and is brimming With Love. Recommended.

By Melody Charles 

 

 
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