If you were alive during the 80s, or know great pop music when you hear it, you know Atlantic Starr’s sole #1 smash, “Always.” It was the follow-up to their breakthrough single “Secret Lovers,” which revitalized their lagging career and paved the way for a lucrative, three album run with Warner Bros.
Just in time for Black Music Month, Cherry Red Records has released Always: The Warner Reprise Recordings (1987 – 1991), a three CD compilation featuring meticulously remastered versions of the group’s All In The Name Of Love, We’re Movin’ Up, and Love Crazy albums. The former two titles are expanded editions, featuring extended and remixed versions of singles from each album.
Beginning in the mid-70s, Atlantic Starr featured a revolving door of female co-lead vocalists, but for this writer, none was as brilliant as Barbara Weathers, who brought a worldly sophistication to the aforementioned ballads that belied her years. She was only 21 years old when she recorded “Secret Lovers.”
With this new box set, we get a whole album of Weathers’ brilliance with All In The Name Of Love. She elevates that era’s pop music, like the album’s opening “One Lover At A Time,” proves she could have hung on the dance floor with Janet Jackson on “Armed And Dangerous,” and does an ample job navigating Whitney Houston’s lane on the gorgeous “Don’t Take Me For Granted” and “I’m In Love.” The album also features “Thankful,” Atlantic Starr’s little known Winans-esque entry into the then-bourgeoning contemporary gospel music movement.
But “Always” was the wedding song of the decade, sung by Weathers with real-life lover Wayne Lewis, and it holds up very well over 30 years later. According to the box set’s liner notes, the song was written for country star Kenny Rogers, but he passed on it. That was a huge misstep on his part. The underrated song, and the underrated All In The Name Of Love album, belongs in everyone’s collection of great 80s pop music.
I can’t say the same for Atlantic Starr’s follow up album, We’re Moving Up. The group had lost Weathers to a short-lived solo career, and the well-intentioned Porsche Martin just couldn’t carry the torch…or deliver the torch song. As such, We’re Moving Up never delivers any of that promised, upward momentum. The third album in the box, Love Crazy, is even worse, miring Atlantic Starr in early 90s new jack swing, just before they faded from view.
As of this writing, I’ve got All In The Name Of Love on repeat and I’ve been unable to connect with Weathers to talk about her sterling tenure with Atlantic Starr. But I’m going to keep trying.