When Cheryl Lynn released her eponymous debut album Cheryl Lynn, it contained a single that since then, has become synonymous with Cheryl, Got To Be Real. It reached number one in the US R&B Charts, while her debut album was certified gold. Since then, Got To Be Real has become a disco classic. However, there’s much more to Cheryl’s career than just one song. After this, Cheryl released eight further albums between 1978 and 1989. While Cheryl Lynn reached number twenty-three in the US Billboard 100 and number five in the US R&B Charts in 1978, her next two albums weren’t as successful. Her second album In Love, released in 1979, reached number 167 in the US Billboard 100 and number forty-seven in the US R&B Charts. Two years later, in 1981, In the Night reached number 104 in the US Billboard 100 and number fourteen in the US R&B Charts. For Cheryl’s fourth album Instant Love, which will be rereleased on 30th July 2012 by BBR Records, Luther Vandross was drafted in by Columbia Records to produce the album. Could Luther Vandross, then an up-and-coming producer change Cheryl Lynn’s fortunes on Instant Love?

While Cheryl Lynn had released three albums since 1978, she’d worked with three separate producers. David and Marty Paich had produced Cheryl’s debut album Cheryl Lynn, while Barry Blue produced In Love and Ray Parker Jr, had produced In the Night. This meant there was no continuity, as every producer had their own way of working and sometimes, their own sound. Different producers used different arrangers and musicians. Luther Vandross was no different. By 1982, Luther Vandross had established a reputation as a singer, songwriter and producer. He also had his own tried and trusted team of arrangers, musicians backing vocalists, who he call upon on Instant love.

Luther’s team for the recording of Instant Love, included a number of people he’d worked with before on other projects, including two Aretha Franklin albums Jump To It and Get It Right. This included Marcus Miller and Nat Adderley, Jr. Luther and Marcus would cowrite two tracks on Instant Love, the title-track Instant Love and Sleep Walkin.’ Marcus would also arranged these two tracks with Luther, while playing bass and synths on Instant Love. Nat Adderley, Jr would arrange the other six tracks plus played keyboards and piano. Paul Riser another of Luther’s trusted team, arranged the strings and horns. Joining Luther’s team were percussionists Paulinho Da Costa and Earl “Crusher” Bennet and guitarist Steve Love. Backing vocalists Fonzi Thornton and Michelle Cobbs from Luther’s days singing backing vocals with Chic were among the backing vocalists that would feature on Instant Love when it was recorded. 

The eight tracks that would become Instant Love were recorded at New York’s Media Sound Studios and Los Angeles’ Village Recorders. This included Day After Day written by backing vocalist Tawatha Agee and Say You’ll Be Mine which she cowrote. Ashford and Simpson contributed Believe In Me, while Cheryl and Luther sang a duet on Marvin Gaye’s If This World Were Mine. Cheryl cowrote just one track on Instant Love, I Just Wanna Be Your Fantasy. These tracks, plus the two Luther and Marcus cowrote were recorded by Luther’s band and backing vocalists accompanying Cheryl. However, would Instant Love see an upturn in Cheryl Lynn’s fortunes?

Instant Love was chosen as the first single from the album, and was released in May 1982. It reached number 105 in the US Billboard 100 and number sixteen in the US R&B Charts. When Instant Love was released a month later in June 1982, it reached  number 133 in the US Billboard 200 and number seven in the US R&B Charts. Although Instant Love didn’t fare as well in the US Billboard 200, it nearly matched the success of Cheryl’s debut album in the US R&B Charts. Things improved with the release of the Marvin Gaye penned If This World Were Mine in August 1982, which reached number 101 in the US Billboard 100 and number four in the US R&B Charts. This became Cheryl’s most successful US R&B single since Got To Be Real. Look Before You Leap was the third and final single released from Instant Love, reaching number seventy-seven in the US R&B Charts in December 1982. Overall, Instant Love had seen an upturn in Cheryl Lynn’s fortunes. However, what does Instant Love sound like? That’s what I’ll now tell you.

Opening Instant Love is the title-track and lead single from the album Instant Love. Written by Luther Vandross and Marcus Miller, whose pounding and synths play an important part in the track’s sound along with Nat Adderley Jr’s keyboards. The arrangement mixes soul and funk, while the synths and keyboards add an eighties electronic sound. When Cheryl’s vocal enters, it’s strong and fiery, delivered with equal amounts of passion, emotion and sass. Punchy, soaring backing vocalists match Cheryl’s vocal for drama. Meanwhile the keyboards, synths and rhythm section provide a backdrop that veers between drama and a joyous sound. This means the arrangement is in perfect synch with the vocal, which has Cheryl’s trademark sound and soulfulness. It’s no wonder this track was chosen as the lead single from Instant Love, as it’s one of the highlights of the album.

By the early eighties, Luther Vandross was in his prime as a songwriter, and Sleep Walkin’ demonstrates this. Chery’s vocal is laden with confidence as she struts into the track, with the rhythm section, guitars and percussion accompanying her. Tight, soaring backing vocalists enter, adding to the energy of the track. Soon, Cheryl’s vocal is more considered and thoughtful, displaying a tenderness.The arrangement takes on a similar understated sound, meandering along with keyboards, funky bass and chiming guitars combining. Later, Cheryl finds her earlier sassiness, feeding off the bursts of soulful backing vocalists. From there, the track veers between its two sides, with Cheryl teasing and tantalizing the listener. Why a track as good as this wasn’t released as a single seems amazing.

On Day After Day written by Tawatha Agee, a very different, but soulful side of Cheryl Lynn is introduced. Here, Cheryl delivers a beautiful ballad, her voice tender but impassioned and emotive. Key to the track’s sound and success are lush, cascading strings arranged by Paul Riser. They’re augmented by Nat Adderley Jr keyboards and percussion, while Steve Ferrone’s drum’s provide the track’s slow, beautiful heartbeat.

Look Before You Leap sees Cheryl up the tempo, delivering the track with confidence, strutting her way through the track. Her vocal is stronger and sassier, accompanied by a dance-floor friendly arrangement. The rhythm section, with Marcus Miller’s bass at its heart combines with guitars, keyboard and synths providing a backdrop that swings along. Meanwhile, Cheryl sounds as if she’s having a ball. Her vocal’s a mixture of power, passion and poise. As she struts her way through the lyrics, she and her band trail hooks aplenty in her wake.

Marcus Miller’s unmistakable bass opens Say You’ll Be Mine, another uptempo track. While Marcus and the rest of the rhythm section provide a funky, dance-floor friendly backdrop, Cheryl’s soulful vocal is accompanied by swathes of strings. Cheryl powerful vocal is accompanied by backing vocals, which Cheryl contributes. With the lushest of strings dancings, percussion and breathy backing vocals accompanying Cheryl, she delivers a vocal that’s impassioned and powerful. Not only that, but she demonstrates that whether ballads or dance-floor friendly tracks, Cheryl Lynn can deliver them just as well.

I Wanna Be Your Fantasy is the only track on Instant Love that Cheryl cowrote. Her breathy, sensuous vocal is accompanied by a funky rhythm section, chiming guitars and light, elegant percussion from Paulinho Da Costa. Providing a contrast are occasional dark synths and keyboards. Tender backing vocalists accompany Cheryl, complimenting her vocal and sit well with the rest of the arrangement from Nat Adderley and Luther Vandross. They provide the perfect backdrop for Cheryl’s breathy, sensual vocal, with the use of percussion from Paulinho Da Costa an absolute masterstroke.

Ashford and Simpson were one of the best songwriting partnerships of the last fifty years, writing many classic tracks. Believe In Me is one of their tracks, with a quite beautiful, understated arrangement accompanying Cheryl’s impassioned and emotive vocal. It’s just piano and lush strings that accompany her vocal. It isn’t every vocalist who can successfully deliver a vocal against such an understated arrangement, but here, Cheryl does so beautifully, showing us another, very different side to Cheryl Lynn.

Closing Instant Love is Marvin Gaye penned If This World Were Mine, where Cheryl sings a duet with Luther Vandross. This gave Cheryl her most successful US R&B single since Got To Be Real. Luther’s vocal opens the track, with just Marcus Miller’s bass, percussion and keyboards accompanying his heartfelt vocal. Guitars and the rhythm section enter, playing subtly. When Cheryl’s vocal enters, it’s tender and heartfelt, with swathes of strings accompanying her. Soon, you’re spellbound, spellbound at the beauty of the arrangement and their heartfelt vocals. Their vocals sit well together, one complimenting the other. The finishing touch is Luther and Nat Adderley’s beautiful, understated and lush sounding arrangement. This is the perfect way to close Instant Love.

Instant Love is quite an unusual album. The reason for this is that there isn’t a bad track on the album. This is unusual on any album. Usually, there’s always one track that doesn’t quite work. Not here. From the title-track Instant Love penned by Luther Vandross and Marcus Miller, who also cowrote Sleep Walkin,’ the quality keeps on coming through the next six tracks, right up to If This World Were Mine, written by Marvin Gaye. These six tracks are a combination of ballads and dance-floor friendly tracks. On each track, Cheryl’s vocals range from tender to powerful, with each track delivered with a mixture of emotion and passion. Cheryl brings out the subtleties and nuances of the lyrics, sometimes, leaving you absolutely spellbound. She’s accompanied by a band featuring some of the most talented musicians Luther Vandross knew. While they played an important part in the Instant Love’s success, the backing vocalists played just as important a part, if not more. They fed of Cheryl, while she fed of them, adding to the energy and drama of the music. All this makes Instant Love the best album Cheryl Lynn released since her debut album Cheryl Lynn. Although her two previous albums In Love and In the Night were good albums, Instant Love surpasses them. Key to this was Luther Vandross’ production skills, plus Marcus Miller and Nat Adderley Jr’s arrangements.  Luther’s production style was slick and polished, much like the The Chic Organization who he’d learned so much from, during his time singing backing vocals for Chic. During this time, Luther Vandross was one of the best producers around, responsible for producing some really successful albums, including Aretha Franklin’s Jump To It. To this list, add Cheryl Lynn’s Instant Love, which will be rereleased on 30th July 2012 by BBR Records. To me, Cheryl Lynn and Luther Vandross were the perfect fit. After Barry Blue and Ray Parker Jr, Cheryl had found the producer she’d been looking for. This spurred Cheryl on to greater heights of soulfulness. That’s why there isn’t a bad track on Instant Love and why the album proved more popular than her two previous albums In Love and In the Night. Standout Tracks: Instant Love, Sleep Walkin,’ Day After Day and Believe In Me.


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