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Johnny Gill, The Best of Johnny Gill (20th Century Masters: The Millenium Collection) (Motown)
Before neo-soul became the catchphrase for hollow R&B, Johnny Gill was preparing a place for his deep, distinctive groan in an era that has since become best known for New Jack Swing. After the demise of New Edition, when Bobby Brown had a real shot at being the King of R&B that Whitney says he is now, all Gill had room to deliver was husky pillow talk. With that signature raspy voice and sweet, silly lyrics, he came up with hits like "Rub You The Right Way," "My, My, My" and "Fairweather Friend" -- all cliché-filled songs full of red dresses and dutiful lovers that ladies love and men love to hate. And while historically speaking Gill might still be the only singer who could turn the repetition of a possessive pronoun into a luscious, memorable hook, there are some things on this Millenium Collection that should be forgotten: like the "7-inch Mix" of "Wrap Your Body Tight," and "The Floor." His throaty baritone is great here for nostalgia's sake, but the title is misleading in that the selections here are not truly a reflection of the best moments in his career. (Where's "There U Go" from the Boomerang soundtrack? Did anyone think it'd be great to have "Can You Stand The Rain" here?) This collection is a good starting point for a new jack who wants a taste of what Gill used to do and it's a great album for nostalgia's sake. "It's Your Body," featuring Roger Troutman salutes saucy lovers and "Quiet Time to Play" is also a good offering. Anyone looking for his very best work will have to pick up the Ultimate Collection.
J. Victoria Sanders