It feels a little strange to refer to Volume One as a “debut album.” Technically, this is correct, but in music terms, "Jimmy Jam" Harris and Terry Steven Lewis are veterans. The pair have five Grammy awards for their work with various artists in R&B and Soul music.
The pair have 41 top 40 hits to their name in the US. Their songwriting prowess is undoubted, and in 2021, the pair has finally released an album that sees them take center stage.
Volume One fittingly relies on collaboration. Jam and Lewis are incredible songwriters, and their rich career means they have been able to recruit some huge names for this project.
The singers involved in the album will leave you in no doubt that this is drenched in R&B grooves. Babyface, Mary J. Blige, Boyz II Men, Toni Braxton, Mariah Carey, Morris Day, Heather Headley, Jerome & The Roots, Sounds Of Blackness, Usher, and Charlie Wilson are the vocalists.
Many of the vocalists are long-term collaborators for the songwriting duo. For instance, Mary J Blige’s “Spinnin” is a real throwback to some of the work that the singer produced with Jam and Lewis over 20 years ago.
Similarly, the Boyz II Men collaboration “The Next Best Day” could be straight out of the 1990s. An unapologetic ballad that doesn’t shy away from those R&B stereotypes. For those who have followed the work Jam and Lewis have done with popular musicians over the last 40 years, these kinds of tracks will be thrilling. They provide you with the classic sound of Jam and Lewis, and the variety of a crew of elite collaborators.
There’s proof that Jam and Lewis can still push the boundaries though. In the Usher collab, “Do It Yourself,” the classic R&B vocals are backdropped with glitchy electronic sounds and modern beats that truly belong in 2021.
The duo aren’t afraid to create something with a new and vibrant sound, no more than they are afraid to cover the same ground that has brought them so much success in the past. Many of those who have followed their career will find every second.
Many of the tracks have already achieved some success, being released as singles, and over the last twelve months, Jam and Lewis can be seen scattered across the US Adult R&B Songs charts.
Jam and Lewis have been around for long enough to oversee some huge technological advancements in the music industry. They’ve been promising an album like this for decades, and it almost feels like they’ve waited to bring it to their fans in surround sound.
With an album that changes direction so much, it can be really hard to feel continuity, but the immersive mix has a brilliant way of tying everything together through a wide soundstage, complementing a crisp and balanced mix on every track. A project like this is never going to have the consistency and flow of Dark Side of the Moon but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a whole lot of fun in 3D.