While taking a break from writing something else I believe many of you will be interested in...
My rapturous love for Stephanie Mills is already well documented
, but that's no reason not to gush some more. I recently bought her new Gold
comp - and, excepting/accepting the fact that single edits are often used, can we all agree that Universal is doing a downright stellar job with this series? - and was thus exposed to about a full discs' worth of classic (okay, and some not-so-) Mills for the first time. (I already knew the bulk of disc 2, largely available in album versions on the budget-priced MCA 20th Century Masters
, and mighty fine in and of itself.) The unquestionable standout of the collection's first disc, even more than the sumptuous "Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin'," is the 12" remix of Mills' 1981 duet with Teddy Pendergrass, "Two Hearts." To be sure, this pair of absurdly brilliant vocalists could sing rings around the proverbial phone book, but part of what makes "Two Hearts" so special is that they're actually given something to sang
. (Wash yo' mouth out if you even dare to ask if this is the same-titled song by the evil P. Collins!) James Mtume (yes, of course that
Mtume) and Reggie Lucas (best known for being handpicked to produce Madonna's debut - and Madonna says she picked Lucas because of his work with Mills) produced most all of Mills' records through 1982, and this was no exception; they cowrote "Two Hearts" as well, with Tawatha Agee (the lead singer on Mtume's smash "Juicy Fruit").
The keyboard accents alone (particularly that four-note progression between chorus and verses, and underneath much of Mills and Pendergrass' vamping the song out) are worth the price of admission. Hearing these two powerhouses singing with each other, too - not against, but alongside, in tandem - is just so, well, "Wow." At the time "Two Hearts" was released, Mills was just 24 and Pendergrass 31, but you wouldn't know it from these vocals; they sound as if they've been singing in harmony for years, if not decades. The production on the track is very much of its moment; this is how most R&B, especially the non-funk stuff, sounded on the radio in 1980-81. That's a good
thing. The synth handclaps, the Chic-esque strings, the very Mtume bassline all sound so fresh and so clean as to be irrefutable. The 7" version of "Two Hearts" is fine (it was on her Stephanie
album, sadly out of print), but it's on the 12" where things really open up and FLY. This is titanic.