Billboard's charts would lead you to believe that the R&B band was a thing of the past. Bands like Earth With & Fire, the Ohio Players, and the Gap Band are currently chart toppers but only through samples, loops and other technical means of production.
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The last and perhaps one of the most successful bands of this era was The Time. Ten years after The Time's closure, Super Producers and founding members Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis brought the spirit of R&B back when they first signed Mint Condition. "Mint Condition is a band of world class musicians", says "Terry Lewis. "They can play a diverse range of music from rock, to jazz, or alternative R&B."
The mixture of funk, soul, rock, jazz, Caribbean, and African rhythms is a style that Mint Condition refers to as "Gumbo." This style is present on their latest album "DEFINITION OF A BAND. "We're very musical and that hasn't changes since the first album" (Meant To Be Mint) says keyboard player Keri Lewis. Second keyboard player, Larry Waddell, wrote the first single "What Kind of Man Would I Be" which was certified GOLD in December of 1996.
One of two GOLD singles earned by the ensemble (the first was "Breakin' My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes) What Kind of Man Would I Be", a passionate serenade, makes reference to a romantic interlude that was never meant to be. Over the smooth melody, lead singer Stokely sentimentally sings, "What kind of man would I be/If I lived unfaithfully/and what kind of girl would you be if you did the same?" Waddell explains, "too many songwriters use the concept of hooking up with someone other than their significant other. I decided to go a different route on the song and not have them get together with that person, but actually do the right thing for a change."
The album consists of eighteen versatile tracks, five of which are jazz inspired interludes. The ultra sexy tune "Gettin It On" follows the Minneapolis Sound into the nineties. This sound surfaces throughout the album, especially on the track "Ain't Hookin' Me Up Enough" an ode to a mates waning sexual appetite. The most cutting edge song is "Sometimes", a rock inspired piece that is the epitome of alternative R&B. About "Sometimes", Vibe magazine called it: "A Sting-meets-Prince-meets Hendrix track that concludes with blistering solos by O'Dell on guitar and Chris "Daddy" Dave on drums. Nowadays, that ain't something you're going to hear on just anybody's record." Definition of A Band, is just that special.
The subtle blend of harmony and charisma is Mint Condition's trademark. This trademark is evident on the ballad "You Don't Have To Hurt No More", the second single from the current album. In this song, written by Keri Lewis, Stokely pleads with a woman to leave an abusive relationship. "I don't like the way he treats you/that's not the way that I would do you/ What gives him the right to think it's you that he owns." Once again, it's heavy stuff from the guys the St. Paul Dispatch called "the thinking mans band". This time, however it's wrapped up in a steady groove fit for romantic cool-downs on the dance-floor. The MTV friendly video was lensed by Gerald Casale, an original member of "New Wave" outfit DEVO known best for his work with Soundgarden and the Foo Fighters.
With exception of Chicago reared Ricky Kinchen, these Minnesota natives believe it was their quiet upbringing that kept them grounded and enabled them to stay focused on what was really important. "We're not in New York or LA. Minnesota is real conservative. It's real laid back here, but we're still able to keep in touch with what's going on out there in the word."
Longevity is an important aspect of the business to Mint Condition. "This is our third album and a lot of people we came out with in 89 are not here now," says Stokley. "To me that's more successful than selling a million albums."
"We haven't won a Grammy but we kind of have when you get Stevie Wonder calling you saying he likes your stuff," Rocky adds. "It keeps you going when you have the support of your peers, and musicians who have paved the way for you."
Mint Condition have been nominated for two 1997 Soul Train Music Awards: Best R&B/Soul Album by a Group, Band or Duo for Definition of A Band. & Best R&B/Soul Single by a Group, Band or Duo for "What Kind Of Man Would I Be."
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