Monday, September 5, 2016

Serenade: Unreleased Album (Mission Records, 199x)

Signed to London label Mission Records in the early 90s, Serenade were an all-female R&B quartet who were quietly active between 1993-1995 in the UK. I say quietly with emphasis as sadly you wouldn't have read about them in Smash Hits Magazine or seen them on Top Of The Pops. They were not that well known but were possibly one of the best female-fronted New Jack Swing groups the country ever produced. Unfortunately growing up in the 90s the only option that I thought we really had was Eternal and while Stay was being played on BET
in the U.S., Serenade's own debut Friend Not A Lover remained pretty much in the underground. They released a follow-up in 1995 and while they never officially released an album, many of the songs recorded for it would later end up on numerous compilation albums put out by Mission Records' distributor Passion Music Ltd.
Spread out over five soul and New Jack Swing compilations, I sourced 6 amazing songs in total that went into the recycling bin while crap such as East 17 and Take That broke records. From pure New Jack Swing beats (Show Me You Love Me, Only You), to modern soul blends (I'll Be What You Need), to smooth R&B bombs (It's Real), the majority were produced by Jazz Black and  Lateef and Sikiru Oluwa (formally of the London hip hop trio Rhythm Within.) All are original songs with the exception of two productions (Only You & You Make Me Feel) which use identical backing tracks to two songs found on Mission's 1993 compilation Ghetto Feel. Originally these productions were rap songs by Rhythm Within themselves and Yinka (AKA Voice of Reason) with the group singing only on backup. A lot more soulful, I would not compare them to SWV or Jade but more like a female equivalent of LeVert mixed with a little Jodeci. Such a pity that their album was not released by the label and something like Time Is For The Players by Father MC was. And he was an American artist.

I am sure there were more songs that went unreleased - 9 songs falls slightly short for a full album even by early 90s standards - but they might've used one or two single remixes to pad it out. Not entirely unheard of for back then.

Friend Not A Lover 4:43
I Like  5:26
I Surrender  5:25
Don't Lead Me On 5:13
Only You 4:13
Show Me You Love Me 4:24
Ill Be What You Need 4:07
It's Real 5:00
I'll Keep You Warm 5:17

Titles in bold were released as singles/b-sides