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John CameronAug 30Janet Jackson’s Untold Rhythms: Come Back To Me https://thevioletreality.com/untold-rhythms-come-back-to-me-9ebda9971b1f Come Back To Me is the emotive ballad of Janet Jackson’s fourth studio album, Rhythm Nation. It’s the lovechild of three creative talents reembarking on the success they shared years earlier, while set to achieve something on a stratospheric level. Printed to a couple of already-degrading 24-track AMPEX tapes, would be an amazing composition and balance of live and synthesized instruments, a collaboration between some classically trained musicians and two of the hottest producers in their hit-making prime… As well as a few vocal performances from an insecure vocalist. Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis’ productions would usually be dominated by synthesizers, drum machines and early samplers. They were the primary recourses that fused the transition between the MPLS Sound that Prince forged to the New Jack Swing that Teddy Riley would master. But, occasionally they would feel the need to bring in other musicians when the digital fads weren’t quite articulating the sound they were looking for. “Jimmy would play the track once for me so I could see what was there. Then I got a paper and pencil and Jimmy and I would go to the piano, he’d play and I would analyse the harmony and write out a chart for myself. With that I’d make up my own part using the chart as a guide. I was amazed at Jimmy’s playing and he of me for [my] analytical capabilities.”. While Janet would pen most of her lyrics and give input to the music itself, it was typically rare for her occasion the instrumental recording sessions. “She came in during the RN session to say hi and see how things were going. I’ll never forget her hand embroidered tennis shoes. They were amazingly beautiful. So much so I asked if I could touch them. I was curious about their texture. Her boyfriend wasn’t pleased”, recounts Dr Raths. One contribution that Janet did make to the composition, was to have a live orchestral arrangement, despite Jimmy Jam “not hearing it”. Lee Blaske (nicknamed and incorrectly credited as Blaskey by Jam and Lewis in the liner notes of their various albums), would provide an intense, yet delicate string arrangement to the track. As indicated by one of Jam’s scratch keyboard tracks on the multitrack, it’s obvious he had a succinct idea of what he wanted. “They just told me the sort of thing they were looking for. Things were a bit different back then. These days, when I orchestrate R&B tracks, I usually do provide a bunch of alternate ideas (since they can be easily rendered with samples and virtual instruments). Not so, back then.” Blaske’s work would shine on the album, but take center stage on the single’s Abandoned Heart mix, along with Rath’s guitar.
Janet stepped into the vocal booth at Flyte Time studios in down-town Minneapolis to do the vocals on the near-completed track. After recording the first vocal take of the Come Back To Me sessions, which would become the primary source of the final comped vocal track, Janet lets out a depressed sigh and proclaims; Listening to the following vocal takes (and even a couple of Spanish ones), it’s hard to imagine how anyone who is capable of conveying such emotion through their voice could be so insecure about it. At a time when vocal powerhouses were increasing in the pop world, Janet remained insecure, yet dignified about her abilities. Her voice served what it needed throughout her career. The productions on Jam & Lewis didn’t lend themselves to be dominated by a voice — even a dominating presence like Alexander O’Neal. In fact, they wouldn’t even present a track to Janet, without it being as complete as possible. Some might say this degrades her contributions to her discography, but others might say it further certifies them. Janet is living proof that you don’t need a loud voice for people to listen. Come Back To Me would be released as the fifth single from the Rhythm Nation album in June of 1990. It would also be her fifth number one from said album. The I’m Beggin’ You mix would provide a slight variation on the album version (featuring an additional synthesizer and more prominent vocals) that would serve as the basis for live performances and be the chosen track on compilations. It lacks the breathtaking vocal introduction, but it’s mix lends way to a more ethereal experience. For new fans, the several variations of the track may be slightly confusing at first, but for those wanting to experience every facet of this jewel, they will undoubtedly be rewarded for their analytical and slightly fanatical discoveries. The song would become a staple in the Janet Jackson discography. It’s sincerity and slight naivety would more than make up for the overwhelming sensuality or borderline pornography that would dominate her later ballads. It takes takes some special chemistry between a group of collaborators for a Quiet Storm track to stand out on an album dominated by political messages and early New Jack Swing.
Click here to keep updated on the upcoming radio documentary.In the upcoming radio documentary; Janet, Jam & Lewis, we take a closer look at the track, isolating the instrumentation and stripping it back to various forms. What we experience are the intimate details behind the session and the mentality going into it. Even with the plethora of mixes already available — you’ve never heard it like this. Special thanks to Lee Blaske and Dr. O. Nicholas Raths for their time and words. Extracts taken from Janet, Jam & Lewis: Deconstructing 30 Years of Music. Keep updated on promotion and airtimes here.