SoulBounce’s Class Of 1992: Christopher Williams ‘Changes’

I suspect that many ’90’s babies born between fall 1993 and well into 1994 and beyond might just have Christopher Williams to thank. You see, his sophomore album, Changes, hit stores on December 29, 1992 and was one of the last R&B releases to cap an exciting year of music. But another indisputable fact was that Changes contained some amazing songs that were tailor-made for getting your groove on — on the dance floor in some instances, but more importantly in the bedroom.

By 1992, Christopher Williams was firmly on the map and had gone beyond your run-of-the-mill R&B singer. His booming baritone got our ears open on 1989’s Adventures In Paradise, and his good looks and fit physique got our eyes open when the video for “Talk To Myself” first hit BET (even if it was a sonic rip-off of Bobby Brown‘s “My Prerogative”). Hollywood took notice of the handsome young talent, and Williams was cast as the well-dressed pretty boy Kareem Akbar, assistant to gangster Nino Brown (it’s a shame what he did to Kareem’s hand), in the feature film New Jack City in 1991. The role didn’t call for any of his vocal talents to be utilized, but Chris did contribute the song “I’m Dreamin'” to the New Jack City soundtrack. The hit R&B single and the lone #1 of his career bridged the gap between solo projects and became a bonus cut on the CD version of Changes.

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Released on Uptown Records, Christopher’s only release on the label after bouncing from Geffen Records for his debut and before jumping to Giant Records for his third album, Changes found Williams at home alongside Heavy D & the Boyz, Father MC and rising acts Mary J. Blige and Jodeci. The latter’s DeVante Swing produced two songs on Changes, the single “All I See” and album cut “Please, Please, Please.” Both cuts were well suited for Williams’ voice even if they didn’t necessarily showcase his range. But they added to the album’s all-important slow jam body roll quotient, which was mighty high on this collection.

“All I See” set the stage for the next five songs, which sounded like a Christopher Williams quiet storm block. If his intentions weren’t clear with track #1, then by the time “Don’t You Want To Make Love” came on it was obvious that Williams was surely trying to seal the deal. Before Jaheim, Christopher Williams was the vocal heir apparent to Teddy Pendergrass, and this song produced by Mark Morales and Mark C. Rooney was the appetizer to the full course on the way with his sensual remake of “Come Go With Me.” Williams pleads and growls without sounding like a carbon copy of Teddy but letting you know that you were most definitely going to get served if you accepted his tempting invitation. The only thing missing here, which made Pendergrass’ original such a classic, was the absence of the dialogue with a woman who resists his advances then eventually acquiesces to his convincing coaxing.    

That might have been an effective (or at least very interesting) use of label mate Blige who instead joined Williams on the duet “Good Luvin’,” which is a largely forgotten song from MJB’s discography. It pales in comparison to “I Don’t Want To Do Anything,” her more well-known duet with K-Ci that was released earlier in the year on her debut album What’s The 411?. Had that song never happened, then perhaps this Mary J. and Chris track would have suffered a better fate because their voices blended well even if the chemistry wasn’t there as it was on “I Don’t Want To Do Anything” for obvious reasons.

The tempo of the album picked up at its midpoint with the track “Where Is The Love,” a slightly New Jack Swing number that you get a good bop going to. The following song, “Let’s Get Right,” was produced by Sean “Puffy” Combs and you could hear his touch all over it. From the telephone answering machine intro, which borrowed a little too heavily from MJB’s “Leave A Message,” to the vocal arrangement, there was no question that that was a Puffy production, albeit one of his lazier moments.

Besides “I’m Dreamin’,” the next most uptempo track on Changes was the groovy single “Every Little Thing U Do.” That song wouldn’t be officially released until the spring of ’93, but it was an album favorite and party starter. It would also prove to be his last top 10 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart where it peaked at #7.

Although Christopher Williams’ Changes may not be considered a classic album from this period in R&B music, it’s one that should be included in the conversation about solid albums of the early 1990s. It was his highest charting release, hitting #12 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums #12 and #63 on the Billboard 200, and one of the highlights of his recording career — which isn’t over yet. Williams dropped his fourth album, Real Men Do, in 2001, but word is that he is working on his fifth album to be released in the not-so-distant future. The man has stayed working, both as a singer and actor in numerous stage productions, and just this past summer he performed at the WBLS 4th Annual R&B Fest in New York City and wowed the crowd by looking and sounding good. Some things haven’t changed at all.      

Christopher Williams Changes [Amazon][iTunes][Spotify]

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