Los Angeles- Soul singer Johnny Gill still knows how to rub his fans the right way. Gill came to the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles last week to tout his new album, sing a couple of songs and do a quick Q&A with the audience of about 200 people.
The high-energy Gill turned it into a mini-concert instead, calling up former New Edition band members Bobby Brown and Ralph Tresvant onstage with him as he worked the intimate crowd into a frenzied state of elation.
The trio had the place rocking as they belted out a couple of their old hits like “Can You Stand the Rain, ”Brown’s “It’s My Prerogative” and Gill’s signature tune “Rub You the Right Way” to help close the show.
But this was clearly Gill’s evening, despite the excitement brought on by the New Edition moment. Much like the way he controls his magnetic, powerful vocal chords, Gill owned the audience with the same authoritative command as he delivered several songs from “Still Winning,” his first recorded album in 16 years.
Known for his gospel-infused soul singing, Gill showed he still has what it takes to be recognized as the premier R&B crooner around.
It’s a shame that Gill has not made a recorded album in nearly two decades, because what the singer displayed at the Grammy Museum show was that simple good singing is difficult to replace. Sure, there a handful of pretty decent male R&B singers on the scene today, but none really possess the Teddy Pendergrass-type singing persona the way Gill does.
There are singers and then there are real singers. Gill is one of those real singers, a singer who just has to sit back in a chair, open up his mouth and have folks panting and swooning. With boxing great Sugar Ray Leonard, baseball’s home run king Barry Bonds and Hall of Fame sportscaster Jim Hill among the attendees, Gill put on such a show that you didn’t want to end.
Singing two ballads from “Still Winning,” Gill effectively induced the audience into a bedroom state of mind with the endearing “It Would Be You” and the smoldering love ballad “In the Mood.” When it comes to listening to grown folks music, Gill’s album should be at the top of the list.
The guy still has the pipes. He’s good-looking. He’s charismatic. Sharing a light moment during the question and answer part of the show, Gill showed he can be quite funny as well. And he is an artist who knows how to make good music.
“Johnny is one of those artists that make us look like geniuses,” said music producer Jimmy Jam, who is half of Flyte Time production team, along with Terry Lewis. “We were blessed to work with him.”
Gill, who came across as incredibly humble and gracious during his sit-down talk to the audience, was just as effusive of his praise of the Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis dynamic music team. Gill collaborated with Jam and Lewis on “Still Winning.”
“You have to give all the credit to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis,” Gill said. “Jimmy jam and Terry Lewis…they knew how to put the pieces together.”
The pieces seem to have all come together on “Still Winning,” with every track considered to be great, according to Gill, who believes a song has to reverberate with the listening audience.
“It has to be something that connects with you,” said Gill. “Something has to connect. I’m so satisfied with this CD.”