I’ve written about the production team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis before, but have you ever wondered what their early work sounded like? Change was one of those talented but sometimes middle of the road R&B bands from the ’80s. That assessment sounds harsh, but with a few exceptions, their work was not notable until they hooked up with two former members of The Time. Before that, they started with a bang with Luther Vandross doing a brief stint as a member for their debut album The Glow of Love from 1980.
He left after fronting a couple of songs. Change carried on with a sound that was accomplished, but non descript as early ’80s R&B/funk goes. Part of the reason for the evolving sound was the rapid turnover among members. Deborah Cooper was the leading female voice along with a ever changing host of males. It’s no wonder the band could never stand still long enough to develop a truly distinctive sound (on their own).
That distinctive sound would finally come on their 5th album Change of Heart. They brought in a new production team that had just left The Time. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis would be accompanied by second producer Timmy Allen.
What made this album, Change’s most successful to date so special was the sound Jam and Lewis imprinted on it. The beginnings of their signature style could be heard in the funk of “Change of Heart”, the album’s biggest hit. Other songs like “True Love” sported the modern ballad style with its dramatic drums and distinct phrasing. The kind of phrasing that would be associated with The S.O.S. Band years later. An early instance of the trademark Jam/Lewis cowbell sound would make an appearance on “Lovely Lady”.
In fact, much of Change of Heart was a kind of incubation laboratory for the styles and production techniques Jam and Lewis would become famous for. There were other parts of the album that reflected other contemporary trends like the percussion in “You Are My Melody” and its uncanny resemblance to parts of Loose Ends’ “Hanging on a String”.
Jam and Lewis of course were not the only producers on board, although three of the four singles were helmed by them. “It Burns Me Up” one of the Timmy Allen songs complimented the Minneapolis sound with the funky Cameo inspired funk of “It Burns Me Up”.
Jam and Lewis of course were off to bigger and better things after Change of Heart, but Change endured energized with yet another sound on their next album. Unfortunately, they never ascended to the big leagues despite the boost from the successful singles from Change of Heart. That does not diminish their accomplishment as being one of the best R&B bands of the year, if only for 1984.