by Assistant Editor Michael P. Coleman

One of the most eagerly anticipated albums of the year, “Love, Marriage & Divorce” (Motown) arrives just in time for Valentine’s Day and is being billed as an “adult oriented” collection.  It delivers for the most part, reuniting singer-songwriter Babyface with his muse, vocal titan Toni Braxton and exploring adult themes not often associated with collections of love songs.

The album could have used the smooth-as-glass “Reunited” as the title track and theme for the album.  The two artists have found their way back to each other after professional and personal rifts that reached their apex in court, with each of them suing the other for royalties.  Like a novel romance (or romance novel), they’ve reconciled and have found their way back home with this release.

On Love, Marriage, & Divorce the artists’ chemistry is undeniable, with Babyface & Braxton claiming their place along with with Michael and Quincy Jones, Janet and Jam & Lewis, and Diana and Holland/Dozier/Holland as one of R & B’s quintessential producer / artist teams.  Highlights of this disc include the aforementioned “Reunited” with a hook that will have you singing along after the first play, the ode to makeup sex “Sweat” (with the lyric “If you really wanna fight, we can take it to the bed tonight…and give you the best fight you ever had”), the smokey “Where Did We Go Wrong?”, and “Heart Attack” which is calling out for a club remix.

The album’s only real letdown is the ballad “I Wish”, which wastes a stunningly haunting melody.  It starts out promising a classic a la “Unbreak My Heart”, but quickly devolves into a humorous rant in which the scorned woman actually wishes that the guy who’s broken her heart gets a “disease” from his new love interest, “…not enough to make you die, but just to make you cry like you did to me.”  The silly lyric continues, and I kept picturing Toni singing it about the guy in the “You Mean The World To Me” video.  I got a good chuckle, but couldn’t help but think that Toni & Face were better than that.

Thankfully, “I Wish” is the album’s one low note.  Neither Babyface nor Braxton appear to have lost one iota of their voices, which for Braxton is saying quite a lot.  Love, Marriage & Divorce is definitely a worthy addition to any classic R & B album collection.
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