D Train - You're the One for Me
Some of the most memorable and fresh-sounding R&B of the early to mid-'80s came from D Train, a group that had one foot in soul music and the other in urban contemporary. Blessed with a big, booming voice, lead vocalist James "D-Train" Williams was, in many respects, the epitome of the classic soul belter. Williams, like so many of the great soulsters of the 1960s and 1970s, brought a strong gospel influence to secular lyrics and wasn't afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve. But in terms of production, Williams' partner, Hubert Eaves III, was very urban contemporary. When Eaves produced the duo's self-titled debut album in 1981 and 1982, he made sure that his distinctive keyboards were quite prominent. Horns and strings are employed, but keyboards are really the main instrument on funk gems like "You're the One for Me" (a major hit), "Keep on," and "Love Vibration." And keyboards are equally important on the ballads, which include the Philadelphia soul-influenced "Lucky Day" and an inspired remake of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David favorite "Walk on By" (which had previously been recorded by Isaac Hayes, Dionne Warwick, and Gloria Gaynor). Many 1970s funk bands thought of horn sections as part of the main course and keyboards as a mere side dish -- on this superb LP, it's just the opposite. Not that Eaves was alone in pushing R&B in a more keyboards-minded direction; anyone who listened to urban radio in 1982 realized that R&B producers in general were using more and more keyboards and synthesizers. From Eaves' attractive production to Williams' inspired singing and the duo's first-rate songwriting, D Train is a stunning debut all around.