It's been more than 20 years since After 7 released a new album. But the group behind such enduring hits as "Heat of the Moment," "Ready or Not," "Can't Stop" and "Nights Like This" hasn't lost any time returning to the R&B charts.
Two songs from After 7's newly released album Timeless (eOne, Oct. 14) - "Let Me Know" and "I Want You" - have already placed in the top 10 and top 5, respectively, on the Adult R&B chart. The group goes on to prove that its signature pristine harmonies are still in full effect on such noteworthy album tracks as "Too Late," "Runnin' Out" and a cover of the Stylistics gem "Betcha By Golly, Wow."
Timeless marks both a creative and family reunion for After 7. The album was produced by the group's longtime creative collaborators Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Daryl Simmons. Originally comprised of Babyface's brothers Kevon and Melvin Edmonds with Keith Mitchell (cousin of Babyface's former songwriter/production partner Antonio "L.A." Reid), the current After 7 lineup features Kevon, Mitchell and Melvin's son Jason Edmonds. Though he left the group in 1995, Melvin stepped back into the fold to help record Timeless. Also adding to the album's family affair feel: nephew David Edmonds wrote, produced and sang on the track "Too Late."
Prior to playing BB King's in New York this week (Oct. 19) - After 7's first Big Apple performance as a group in more than 10 years - lead vocalist Kevon talked to Billboard about the group's momentous return.
On reuniting with Babyface:
This is something that just unfolded. Nothing was planned at all. Babyface had a few songs that didn't make the cut for his last solo album. So he asked us to try a couple to see what would happen. Going into this, there wasn't really a question of who to work with. We had to go back to the same well we started with. We knew that whatever we did working with them would be our best effort. And it was extremely important to have trust and had fun in the process.
Not wanting to repeat the past:
When we started out in 1989, we were a fresh, brand new group rolling in the latest Cadillac. But that was then. For us to come back today, we couldn't be rolling in the latest model Benz, a 750 BMW or Audi. We had to be rolling in a Bentley. Anything else was not going to turn anybody's head. We kept driving that point home to Kenny in speaking to the caliber of the songs. The songs had to be something that knocks people's socks off. We didn't want anything that echoed what came out of our catalog. We didn't want any association lyrically or melodically to cast a shadow on what we're doing now. The music we're creating today stands on its own. It may be reminiscent of what you recall only because our music is timeless.
Returning to the studio for the first time in more than 20 years:
There was a slight undercurrent of nervousness and electricity. It was like we're in here and really doing this, huh? You don't even know what you're going to create or what it's going to sound like. "I Want You" was the first song we recorded. Daryl and Kenny looked at each other and said, "Damn, they sound just like they used to sound. This is crazy." Then it was let's just roll with it and see where it takes us.
Recording again with original member Melvin Edmonds:
Since Melvin was no longer doing this, we checked in with him to see if he was game to work on the album. Without his voice in our signature sound, it would have been cheating our fans. Melvin is on throughout the album. He definitely stepped it up in the studio and gave us his all, bringing a great balance.
Jazmine Sullivan's sampling of "Ready or Not" in her top 5 adult R&B hit "Let it Burn":
I love Jazmine's song and her artistry. She awakened listeners once again to what's great about timeless music: being able to use something from 25 years ago that Babyface wrote. It also gave us a little bit of attention. Joining her onstage to perform at last year's Soul Train Awards was a nice moment.