Leaving a pop group can be a tricky thing. Will the work you do on your own connect with audiences the same way it did with your bandmates? Ultimately, there's only one way to find out: strike hard and make the music your own. Bobby Brown of New Edition delivered a master class in how to go solo with his second LP Don't Be Cruel (1988) - and now, thanks to Iconoclassic Records, it's getting its due on disc with a deluxe 2CD edition packed with remixes and rarities.
As one fifth of Boston soul-pop singing group New Edition, Brown delivered to Black and white audiences with charm and a little bit of grit on songs like the Ray Parker Jr.-penned "Mr. Telephone Man." But his outspokenness and bad-boy image - personified by a tendency to upstage his friends with seductive dances on stage - proved to be tricky with the group's infamous parade of challenging managers. In 1985, he was ousted from New Edition and worked with disco mixer John Luongo and Cameo mastermind Larry Blackmon on a solo debut; King of Stage yielded a No. 1 R&B hit in "Girlfriend," but failed to make an impact on the pop charts.
Brown decided to take control in a big way, working with some upstart producers for his next effort. Chief among them were the rising duo of Antonio "L.A." Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds. Known for their work in the Cincinnati combo The Deele, the duo crafted sleek, electronic grooves of all types for Brown: brash loverboy posturing (the title track), tender come-ons ("Roni") and rhythmic cuts guaranteed to light a dance floor on fire ("Every Little Step," "Rock Wit'cha"). Equally crucial to Don't Be Cruel's success was a mission statement courtesy of another R&B upstart: Guy co-founder Teddy Riley. He co-wrote and produced the mighty "My Prerogative," on which Brown addressed his critics head-on with an unbeatable groove that helped form the foundation of the New Jack Swing, bridging the gap between R&B and hip-hop in a manner that would change pop music for good.
Together with some mellow cuts from previous Brown collaborators like Larry White (a key band member on King of Stage), Don't Be Cruel had all the makings of a hit record - but no one could have predicted exactly what Brown would achieve. Through 1988 and 1989, the album spun off five Top 10 pop hits: "Don't Be Cruel," the chart-topping "My Prerogative," "Roni," "Every Little Step" (featuring a memorable video in which Brown sported a new, asymmetrical fade haircut, allegedly an accident turned into a trend) and "Rock Wit'cha." Amazingly, another Top 10 hit was sandwiched in that incredible run: Brown, Reid and Babyface collaborated on the infectious "On Our Own," the lead single from the 1989 summer blockbuster Ghostbusters II. When the dust settled, Don't Be Cruel was 1989's biggest-selling album and "My Prerogative" the year's second-biggest single, with the LP on its way to selling seven million copies in America in the decades since.
While Brown's solo career never reached the same heights of Don't Be Cruel - and was in fact overshadowed by drug issues and a turbulent marriage to Whitney Houston - the singer would reunite with New Edition in 1998, recently taking part in a run of shows in Las Vegas and producing a pair of well-received miniseries for BET: one on New Edition's career arc, and another on his own (no pun intended).
When that New Edition series hit the airwaves in 2017, UMe locked and loaded a series of digital expanded editions of not only the group's albums, but select spin-off and solo projects. That take on Don't Be Cruel forms the foundation of Iconoclassic's double-disc presentation, albeit with a few crucial tweaks. Nearly all of the 17 remixes and rarities appear on this physical release; the only one truly missing is a late-cycle megamix, replaced by the original 7" single version of "My Prerogative." Similarly, the original album version of "On Our Own" has been swapped out for a rarer single edit. Still, this presentation offers the definitive Don't Be Cruel experience. Add in some new remastering by Donald Cleveland and liner notes by journalist Craig Seymour, and you've got a trip of a reissue.
The expanded Don't Be Cruel will be available June 16. Pre-order links and the full track breakdown are below!
Don't Be Cruel (35th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) (Iconoclassic ICON 1063, 2023) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
Disc 1: Original album and bonus tracks
- Cruel Prelude
- Don't Be Cruel
- My Prerogative
- Rock Wit'cha
- Every Little Step
- I'll Be Good to You
- Take It Slow
- All Day All Night
- I Really Love You Girl
- Cruel Reprise
- We're Back
- On Our Own (Without Rap) +
- My Prerogative (7" Edit) +
- Every Little Step (with Rap)
- Don't Be Cruel (A Cappella)
- Roni (Cussapella)
Tracks 1-11 released as MCA Records 42185, 1988
Track 12 released on Ghostbusters II (Original Soundtrack Album) - MCA Records 6306, 1989
Track 13 released on MCA Records single 53662, 1989. Original version from Ghostbusters II (Original Soundtrack Album)
Track 14 released on MCA Records single 53383, 1988
Track 15 released on MCA Records single 53618, 1989
Track 16 released on MCA Records 12" single 23861, 1988
Track 17 released on MCA Records 12" single 23921, 1988
Disc 2: Remixes
- Don't Be Cruel (Promo Remix by Louil Silas, Jr.)
- My Prerogative (Extended Remix)
- Roni (Pebbarone Mix)
- Rock Wit'cha (Quiet Storm)
- Every Little Step (Uptown Mix)
- On Our Own (Extended Club Version)
- Don't Be Cruel (Extended) (The Rapacious Mix)
- My Prerogative (Joe T. Vannelli Light Mix)
- Rock Wit'cha (Extended Version)
- Roni (Extended Version)
- Every Little Step (Extended Version)
Track 1 released on MCA Records 12" promo L33-17538, 1988
Track 2 released on MCA Records 12" single 23888, 1988
Tracks 3 and 10 released on MCA Records 12" single 23921, 1988
Track 4 released on MCA Records 12" promo L33-18055, 1989
Tracks 5 and 11 released on MCA Records 12" single 23933, 1989
Track 6 released on MCA Records 12" single 23957, 1989
Track 7 released on MCA Records U.K. 12" single WMCAX 1268, 1989
Track 8 released on MCA Records U.K. 12" MCST 2094, 1995
Track 9 released on MCA Records 12" single 23951, 1989
please say all of these New Edition/solo digital deluxe editions are planned for physical release!
Donald Cleveland says
I will say I know that Iconoclassic WANTS to do them- yes. There are miles between Desire and Fulfillment. However, I can offer this: there is ONE more confirmed (as in signed off legal, and already re-compiled and re-mastered) N.E. family title that will arrive (roughly) a couple of months after the Bobby Brown. (Speaking not for Iconoclassic- but as freelance co-producer and mastering engineer)
William Swing says
Dear Donald & Mike,
Few minutes ago as soon as I red that there is a forthcoming 35th Anniversary Deluxe CD Edition I was glad since I’m a hard collector in NJS and 90s R&B….but looking carefully at the tracklisting I was very disappointed to be honest.
Let me explain. The Expanded Digital edition was released in 2017 so 6 years ago with I think the same tracklisting so what this physical edition brings on the table ??? 🤔🤔
The booklet…pictures…More seriously, I don’t understand the goal of such physical edition and even more with a 35th Anniversary, fans and public expect much more that the Expanded Edition that everyone got I assume.
Back in the days, in the 80s and even more as you may know late 80s label MCA Records (even more with its JV with Uptown Records) was probably the most powerful label with a huge catalogue of amazing Artists / Groups especially in that style. And because of that, the label could work with the top producers and remixers…so why don’t you add unreleased remixes and songs especially that in my opinion would have been more appreciated for such anniversary.
Waiting 6 years for a double physical Deluxe Edition is one thing and having an exceptional tracklisting is another thing obviously.
At MCA in 2023 nobody is taking aware of such anniversary, where are the unreleased songs and rare remixes that we should have ? 🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔
I’m just saying.
Donald Cleveland says
You said- "with I think the same tracklisting"- but it's not. The article even mentions that. So, since it's not what you want it to be, there is literally nothing that I can say. As a catalog producer, and as a human being I understand "you cannot please everybody". I will say this- Universal can issue the grand project that you envision with every unreleased track you know of- and some you don't. Contact them and ask for it. You might get it. I would be thrilled if that happens. Meanwhile, I am thrilled with this project. And I know- many others will be as well. This is for THEM.
William Swing says
Nobody works for nothing of course but both tracklisting are quite te same at 90/95% so on musical viewpoint what this new Deluxe Edition brings in the table….that’s an interesting question. Future will tell and numbers too. Can you explain why there aren’t any unreleased songs or remixes ?
Paul E. says
...it's their prerogative [ha ha]...and I'm with you about unloading + making all remixes, rarities, b-sides, promo only, a capellas, demos, etc. available- even if it meant a 3rd CD.
Mike Duquette says
I think what we have to consider here is money. We'd all like unreleased material or more discs, but that means reissue labels have to pay for them. I've seen unreleased tracks nixed because the cost of mixing them was too high, or because the licensor doesn't allow their use. And after a licensing label pays, you do, on a higher level than you might with a "slimmer" but still incredibly generous 2CD set. Believe me when I say that every one of these third party labels we cover (and the people who work for them) wish this was different, but I'm confident in saying the work shines in spite of these limitations.
I really hope it's the first album, as many of the mixes of Cool It Now and Mr. Telephone Man have still somehow not seen CD release.
I'm looking forward to this, thanks.
But is "Don't Be Cruel (Promo Remix by Louil Silas, Jr.)" really from MCA Records 12" promo L33-17538? Discogs says otherwise.
Donald Cleveland says
The incorrect timing is listed on the original record label and thus repeated on the Discogs entry. The original label lists it as being 6:51. But since the digital release use we sourced from the master tape and the record actually runs to 7:21 (7:19 with a 2-second gap).
Donald, thank you. Are you saying, then, that the promo 12" shown above contains the (terrific) 7:21 Remix and not the standard 6:51 album/extended version? Thank you again.
Is it not the same remix as on this release of the remix album Two Can Play That Game?
People still buy cds and were disappointed with the original expanded version only being available digitally. That's why this now exists.
Plus, it's still fun to buy cds.
Oddly enough, having the Mega Mix would have been a sure sale for me as I only own it on an old 7".
Mike Duquette says
I also love that megamix - one of my most played tracks of Bobby's, if I'm honest - though I totally understand the appeal of including two of the biggest singles as they were heard on the radio.