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Changing Faces

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If you like your R&B smooth as Cristal and deeper than a Lexus full of brown-skinned honeys on a night in July, dig deep into All Day, All Night, the second album by the platinum-selling New York duo Changing Faces. It's 100% butta in an era when the shelves are crowded with Parkay poseurs. Most importantly All Day, All Night is about one thing above all other-singing- old-school, straight-up, make-your-spine-tingle-with-the-sheer-soul-of-it.

The first single from All Day, All Night is "G.H.E.T.T.O.U.T.," (pronounced Get-O.U.T.) for which an old friend, R. Kelly, was called back to the studio. Kelly, who also contributed his talents on the self-titled first album, wrote this slow-burning tale of infidelity (as well as the album's title track) especially for the group. With powerful emotional phrasing, Changing Faces get at the desperation embedded in the song's lyric. And because of their restraint and subtle understatement, the tune speaks loudly. "G.H.E.T.T.O.U.T" demonstrates Changing Faces' truly compelling and mature performance.

Another standout cut is a cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time," an unexpected choice, perhaps, but a brilliant one nonetheless. The song's rich chromatic chord structure gets new life when Changing Faces give the tune a make-over, turning up the sensuality, adding a twist of romantic R&B instrumentation, and along the way, revealing a new side of this classic hit with their rich harmonies and ethereal, sexy vocalizing, Changing Faces emphasize the track's gutsy emotional quality, and succeed in transforming it into something that's very much all their own.

Of course, Changing Faces aren't exactly newcomers when it comes to sending shivers up spines. Their 1994 debut album, Changing Faces, earned its Gold status for shiver-inducing cuts, such as the Platinum hit "Stroke You Up." The album garnered coast to coast respect for its unpretentious blend of timeless gospel-inflected vocalizing and contemporary hip-hop soul production. And nor was the duo yet another pre-packaged product of some producer's imagination. Changing Faces are, and have always been, the real thing and met and began singing together long before their style became a staple of national radio play lists everywhere.

In fact, Cassandra Lucas, born and raised in East Harlem, and Charisse Rose, hailing from the Bronx, met while they were sophomores at the legendary Music and Art high school in New York City. Upon graduating, Cassandra earned a BA is Sociology at Hunter College, while Charisse headed to John Jay to study criminal justice. Both worked separately for a while, doing demos, jingles, and background vocals, until their professional paths crossed once again when the two were hired to sing for Sybil, touring the US and abroad, on-and-off for two years.

"That's when we said, 'We can do this!'" recalls Charisse. "It let us know that we could make a living performing and we feel very blessed because of that." However, they were both thankful for the experience gained from singing background before they stepped into the spotlight. But the spotlight was still a few years away for Changing Faces. In the meantime, when they weren't touring with Sybil, Cassandra and Charisse were working side by side in a Manhattan dermatologist's office. They spent their spare time crafting demos with some help from Dinky Bingham, a producer later known for his work with New Edition and others. But, as fate would have it, it wasn't the demos they worked so hard on that eventually led to Changing Faces' big break.

"We're firm believers that it doesn't matter if you have a demo or not," says Cassandra, "because we got our deal singing live on Fifth Avenue and Twenty-Fifth Street."

Kenny Smoove, who was just starting his new label, Spoiled Rotten, then affiliated with Big Beat/Atlantic Records, had arranged for an audition with the group that fateful day. Instantly impressed, he brought them in the studio to do their thing for Big Beat president Craig Kallman. Within a week, lawyers were looking at contracts and Changing Faces were recording the songs that would eventually become their first album.

Obviously, at this point in their careers, Changing Faces could have afforded to hire the biggest names in the biz. Though some of them are represented here (R. Kelly, Bryce Wilson), All Day, All Night features several new up-and-coming producers. "The whole album is basically filled with people who were looking for their big break. And we're happy because that helps us too: it's so easy for girl groups to sound alike. But using new talent gives us more sounds, more originality, more variety."

"What you find with the new producers," says Charisse, "is that they're all trying to work together, and they're really hungry for success."

You can hear that hunger all over All Day, All Night. If you love classic R&B with a totally contemporary vibe, it's something that will satisfy you All Day, All Night, and every second in between.

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