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Carter Walker
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Anita Baker, Sweet Love: The Very Best Of Full Album Zip !!LINK!!

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Anita Baker, Sweet Love: The Very Best Of Full Album Zip

Babyface is everywhere. Check Billboard's Hot R&B Singles chart, where his name crops up seven times in the first 49 listings, as singer, writer or producer -- and sometimes as all three. Among the artists represented are Tevin Campbell, ("I'm Ready"), Toni Braxton ("You Mean the World to Me"), Mariah Carey ("Never Forget/Without You") and Aretha Franklin ("Willing to Forgive"), and two of his own: "And Our Feelings" and "Never Keeping Secrets." Not long ago, Babyface, along with longtime partner Antonio "L.A." Reid, had six singles in the R&B Top 10 at the same time. In fact, since 1987, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds has been attached to 66 Top 10 R&B hits. And, not surprisingly, he has a passel of Grammy, American Music and Soul Train Music Awards, and even a 1992 NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award. Still, he said at the time, "I don't feel like I've done enough." He was 33. Recently, Babyface was in Washington to do a little more -- as national spokesman for the Boarder Baby Project, which runs "The Little Blue House" on Irving Street NW. He's spent the day in news conferences and visiting the home for boarder babies, and right now he's relaxing in the back seat of a white stretch limo shuttling him back to his hotel after a quick visit to Donnie Simpson and "Video Soul" at the studios of Black Entertainment Television. Like many people in the industry, Simpson tried to draw Babyface out about this winter's buzz story: the surprising breakup of one of pop music's most successful partnerships, though their label, LaFace, continues to operate. While L.A. Reid and Babyface wrote "I Will Always Love You" for Babyface's current album, "For the Cool in You," the relationship has clearly cooled, without any real explanation offered by the principals. "I won't talk about that," says Babyface. "I'll just say that whatever happened, the results are that we're not writing and producing together, but we are still working together as a record company. "We were never close, close friends," Babyface adds tersely. "We've always been business associates. We're still business associates. We're having great success with LaFace Records and in that part of the relationship, I'm cool. The main things outside of that -- writing and producing -- that's me wanting to be an individual and showing my colors as best I can." All this is said in soft tones and an unhurried cadence you almost have to lean forward to hear. The opposite of Warren Zevon's excitable boy, the lean and handsome Babyface embodies the cool ethos. Sharpness shows up in his clothes -- mostly Versace and Thierry Mugler -- and in his craft, but you suspect the man's pulse itself is set permanently low. If Babyface was any more laid back, he'd be laid out. "I'm never excited," he admits. "I guess I've always been like this." "His mother's exactly the same -- mellow and kind of unemotional," says Babyface's wife, Tracey, who is just starting up her own record label, Yab Yum, through Sony. They met three years ago at an audition for his "Whip Appeal" video. (She ended up missing the shoot but, perhaps prophetically, wound up in a subsequent video, "My Kind of Girl.") After a two-year courtship, they were married and now live in America's most famous Zip code. (In fact, Babyface has taped a guest spot on "Beverly Hills, 90210" that will air this month.) A lot of folks would like to see Babyface on a stage rather than a television screen. But in the scheme of things, live performance is where he maintains his lowest profile. "I enjoy it, but it takes a lot to pull it together the way I'd want to do it," says Babyface, who still seems bitter about contractual problems that occurred during his mid-'80s stint with the Deele. Born and raised in Indianapolis with six brothers, Kenny Edmonds picked up a guitar in the fifth grade and first sat in with his brothers' band just a year later. As a teen, he performed in Midwest lounges and eventually was called to Cincinnati for some session work. That's where he hooked up with the Deele and Antonio Reid. It's also where he picked up his nickname. "We were working with Bootsy Collins in the studio and one day he walked in and said, 'What's up, Babyface?' He kept calling me that, and it kind of stuck, as nicknames do." Edmonds admits he had serious qualms about using "Babyface" professionally. "But I used to do this one song onstage with the Deele, 'Sweet November.' I would sing it and at the end, they'd say, 'That was Kenny Edmonds!' and the reaction would be ... so-so. Then one night, I sang it the exact same way and they introduced me as 'Babyface!' and it was a totally different reaction, with people screaming. That's when I learned the importance of commercialism." The Deele, he says, "was a great learning ground. ... Not just musically but the whole management and production deal. I could write a book about what not to do in starting a career, 'cause once we did make it, it seemed like we were paying everybody off, and I don't know what we were paying them for. It let me know what I don't want to be like in this industry." As he started writing and producing for other people, says Babyface, "that became more of a love for me." And more of a career as well. Starting in 1987, Babyface began collecting No. 1s with Bobby Brown ("Every Little Step," "Don't Be Cruel," "On Our Own," "Humpin' Around," "Good Enough"); Whitney Houston ("I'm Your Baby Tonight"); Karyn White ("Superwoman," "Love Saw It," "The Way You Love Me"); the Whispers ("Rock Steady"); Damian Dame ("Exclusivity," "Right Down to It"); the Mac Band ("Roses Are Red"); and After 7 ("Ready or Not," "Can't Stop"), which includes two of his brothers. Little wonder that artists and labels call Babyface all the time, hoping his studio alchemy will turn their silver CDs into gold or platinum. "I almost always write for the particular artist and a particular project," he notes. Sometimes things don't happen quite the way he plans, though they seem to work out just fine in the end. For instance, "Love Shoulda Brought You Home" and "Give U My Heart" were written with Anita Baker in mind, but Baker passed because she was pregnant. The songs ended up on the double-platinum "Boomerang" soundtrack, introduced by LaFace's newest signing -- Maryland's Toni Braxton. "Toni was glad Anita didn't do them," Babyface says with a curling smile. Blessed with such Babyface classics as "Breathe Again," "Seven Whole Days" and "Another Sad Love Song," Braxton's eponymous debut album is now closing in on the 4 million mark. Similarly, "Rock Witcha," a Top Five R&B and pop hit for Bobby Brown, was passed on by Johnny Gill, who later had a No. 1 with Babyface's "My, My, My." "And 'Every Little Step'? We were originally trying to get Midnight Starr to do it, and they said, 'It's not a hit,' " Babyface recalls. "Then Bobby did it -- it was a hit. Even Johnny didn't want to do 'My, My, My' at first -- he didn't think it was happening -- but we made him do it. And there's probably more that I'm not remembering." Babyface often unveils a new song as a full demo or, "depending on the relationship with the people, I'll just have the music and tell them to come over to the house and I'll sing them the melody. I won't even have all the lyrics yet, but I'll give them an idea of where it's going to go. I prefer that, because it's less work." Certain songs, says Babyface, seem special from the start, like the melancholy Braxton hit "Breathe Again." "As I was writing, it was, 'Woah, woah, I can feel this one.' " It's a surprise he didn't start crying between the notes. Actually, Babyface admits, "I try to cry when I write. It helps." "End of the Road" was written with Boyz II Men in mind. "I did a full demo of the song, and after I finished, I said, 'I wish I could do this.' I knew it was a strong song, but I didn't think I was necessarily the guy to do it. And I didn't know it could be as strong as it would be by the guys doing it. A lot of magic happened when we got in the studio." So much that "End of the Road" now holds the all-time record for weeks at No. 1 on the pop charts (13). It's just one of six pop No. 1's and 28 R&B No.1's for Babyface. Which is exactly why folks lure him to the studio. Recently, Babyface wrote and produced five songs, including a duet on which he sings, for El DeBarge's new album. He prepared to work on the follow-up to TLC's double-platinum debut and put finishing touches on the LaFace debut of A Few Good Men. A few good women are on his schedule as well: Karyn White, Gladys Knight, Madonna (with whom he's already written a couple of songs) and Vanessa Williams (whose husband, Ramon Hervey, is Babyface's manager). And LaFace recently signed the Braxtons, a quartet consisting of Toni's sisters. Between the writing -- which he considers his main focus -- and producing, Babyface has managed to record four solo albums, from his "Tender Lover" debut, which sold 2.5 million copies, to "For the Cool in You," which is up to 1.5 million after eight months. All his albums contain satiny love songs and celebrate the long tradition of Lover Man crooners. As a vocalist, he has been described by one critic as "Marvin Gaye without the nuance, Johnny Gill without the vocal gymnastics, Keith Sweat without the begging." One song on his new album, "I'm Just a Bit Old-Fashioned," begins with "I believe that a woman/ is the most precious thing on Earth." That may just be why women love Babyface -- and why men can learn from him. A case could be made that Babyface is the Smokey Robinson of the '90s, a man whose slow, sweet, hook-laden ballads will endure far longer than the rhythm-rooted dance hits at which he's also adept. "No question, I agree," he says. "But that's usually the case with songs through history."


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