Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe split off of New Edition in 1989, after it more or less ran its course as boy bands from Boston do. (Yes, they’re from Boston’s Orchard Park housing projects and were formed by the same manager immediately before NKOTB, which was meant to be New Edition but with white teenagers. New Edition, in turn, was meant to be “the New Edition of The Jackson 5“. And the wheel turns.)

Bobby Brown was off doing songs for the Ghostbuster’s II soundtrack (he was voted out of the band in 1986 for “lewd stage acts”) and Ralph Tresvant failed to fill his shoes as a performer, so they broke up the band in 1989. So legendary producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, most famous for Janet’s “Control” and “Rhythm Nation” albums, who produced New Edition as they shifted from bubblegum nonsense to young-adults-with-relationship-problems, smartly managed the offshoot solo acts of BBD and Tresvant.

So BBD released “Poison” in 1989 to huge sales. The music video era was peaking and BBD took advantage with stylish proto-90’s fashion (think overalls with one strap) suggestive but not explicit content, and incredible beats (produced by the same geniuses who made Public Enemy’s records, the Bomb Squad). They seemed like cool guys and the songs are still absurdly catchy (Case in point: I insisted “Poison” be played at my wedding and the place went bananas). BBD struck the delicate balance of making R&B that wasn’t corny or overly mushy and still had a solid beat.

The album is built like an album – intended to be listened to all the way through, maybe more than once, so there are a lot of solid cuts aside from the singles. One of which is my favorite – “I Thought it Was Me”. For all the male bragadoccio of the other songs, this is the one which reveals a slight amount of emotional complexity. This is the album version – the remixes are terrible and the live versions lose the power of the production.

Bell Biv Devoe – “Poison” [Buy from Amazon]