Stephanie Mills: Home (1989)

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By Scott Goldfine

It’s sometimes hard to believe that this incredibly inspirational and ethereal voice comes booming out of such a slightly framed chanteuse. Stephanie Mills is of that rare breed of vocalist who, through tremendous conviction and powerful pipes, transcends any material to make it her own. But, as gifted a singer as Ms. Mills is, she has only been able to attract scant crossover action. Regardless, she has developed quite a loyal allegiance since making the leap from stage (Dorothy in “The Wiz”) to recording artist several years back.

Furthermore, Mills and MCA seem content with the slot she has etched for herself and do not pander to a pop audience. Consequently, her releases ― which are virtually always guaranteed of top-10 action on the R&B charts — maintain a high degree of soulful integrity. Home, named after the song of the same name from “The Wiz” and dedicated to its composer Charlie Small and Mills’ former producer Ken Harper, both recently deceased, is no exception.

Mills has assembled some of the top names in black music ― including Angela Winbush, Gene Griffin and Teddy Riley, Gerald Levert, Take 6 and Alton “Wokie” Stewart — on this disc, which is divided into “Lovin’” and “Partyin’” sides. The first, or “Lovin’,” side proves once and for all that ballads are this vocalist’s bread and butter. From the opening strains of her current single, the mid-tempo love testimonial “Something in the Way (You Make Me Feel),” through her invigorating rendition of the title track, to the last gospel-inflected wail of “Comfort of a Man,” Mills enraptures the listener with sheer vocal power and beauty.

Whoever said “Wonderful things come in small packages” must have had this delightful and dainty diva in mind.

GRADE: B

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