Audiences enamored with Boyz II Men's smooth form of pop seduction should be equally enthusiastic about Uncle Sam's call to arms. The group members have taken an active interest in getting this message across to the record-buying public: Boyz II Men and artist man- ager Charlucci Finney acted as executive producers of Uncle Sam, and various members wrote, produced, played and sang on its eleven tracks. "Sam has one of the most incredible voices I've ever heard," enthuses Boyz II Men's Nathan Morris. "It's hard to pick a first single from the album - every cut is a smash!"
Sam Turner was born in Detroit. Like many great soul singers before him, he grew up in a household that looked upon music as a vehicle for religious testament. Turner's father is a Baptist minister, known to his congregation as "Singing Sam." Sam credits his father with instilling in him a strong sense of abiding faith, as well as introducing him to the stirring power of heart- felt music. Sam's first public vocal performance was at his father's church when he belted out the gospel standard "Don't Move My Mountains (But Give Me The Strength To Climb)." He was three years old at the time.
His church background enables Sam to see music as a forceful tool of expression. "I always wanted to do something positive," he says. "Something that kids could listen to, something that your grandmother could listen to." Most of his songs are quite a bit steamier than what the average grandmother is looking for, but Sam's parents are thrilled that their son has been given the opportunity to have a recording career. "I have all their blessings. I originally had aspirations to be a pastor, but God sent me this way."
Sam sharpened his singing skills in an unlikely place for a kid in his mid-teens: on the road. He won a role in the touring company of the gospel musical "A Good Man Is Hard To Find," and traveled with the show for three and a half years. "They didn't care if I could act," he says. "Once they heard me sing, they said, 'We'll teach him how to act!'" Outside of an elementary school fairy tale, "A Good Man Is Hard To Find" was the first play Sam had ever seen, much less performed in.
Charlucci Finney first heard Sam singing on-stage and, bowled over his voice, soon became his manager. When Finney was told that Stonecreek was looking for new talent, he arranged to have his discovery sing over a telephone for Boyz II Men's Wanya Morris. Duly impressed, Wanya presented Sam to the other members of the group - and soon he became the first signing to Stonecreek Recordings.
Boyz II Men are one of the best-selling groups in music history. Their first album, 1991's Cooley high harmony sold nine million copies, while the follow-up, Boyz II Men II, moved a stag- gearing twelve million units. Their experience in the studio, as well as their maturing songwriting talents, have meshed beautifully with Uncle Sam's assured vocal approach. "In a year's time, we came up with 30 or 40 songs," Sam says. "Once we got to know each other, it was like we knew each other for years. We're like brothers - it's a good vibe."
That vibe is evident on every track of Uncle Sam. Sam credits a variety of soul singers as having influenced his technique, including Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, and Prince. Though these artists are an audible part of his approach, Sam's sinuous lyric readings are very much his own. The first single, "Can You Feel It," is a radio-ready slice of soul that was produced, arranged, and co-written by Wanya Morris, Popa Chief, and MAS-PD. Popa Chief also contributes a brief rap that kicks off the single and album alike, a sort of Declaration of Independence for Uncle Sam and Stonecreek Recordings.
As could be expected with this kind of talent onboard, there are several standout tracks on the album. "You Make Me Feel Like" (written, produced, and arranged by Wanya Morris, Shawn Stockman, and MAS-PD) is inventively built upon a sample of Stanley Clarke's jazz-fusion classic, "Vulcan Princess." "Stop Fooling Around" is written, produced, and arranged by Shawn Stockman: Sam's sudden bursts of Curtis Mayfield-like falsetto on this track add new dimension to Stockman's already sumptuous groove. Nathan Morris wrote, produced and arranged "I Don't Ever Want To See You Again." The story of a man who loses his girl to his best friend, it's the album's passionate, heartbreaking closer. Uncle Sam wrings every ounce of emotion out of the lyric, and Boyz II Men's Michael McCary contributes a moving jilted-lover's monologue.
When asked if he has name for his style of music, Uncle Sam says, "'Love on wax,'" then jokingly adds, "Or love on whatever CD's are made of!" Once Uncle Sam's sound snakes its way into their lives, music fans across the country will be happy to take that love any way they can get it.