British singer-songwriter Geoffrey Williams had already released two albums in the U.S. when Giant Records released Bare in early 1992, but the LP’s lead single, “It’s Not a Love Thing” (download), was my first exposure to his talents (pun on album title intended only in hindsight). And what an introduction it was: “Love Thing” is one of the great lost singles of the ’90s, the kind of song I expected to hear everywhere in the summer of ’92, but it quickly stalled at #70 on the Billboard pop chart. Maybe Top 40 stations thought it was too R&B, and R&B stations thought it was too Top 40, but whatever the case, “Love Thing’s” peak position was apropos since its retro ’70s vibe was a few years ahead of its time. I remember a DJ in North Carolina comparing Williams to a young Sly Stone; indeed, “It’s Not a Love Thing” is delivered with palpable joy and pain thanks to the singer’s elastic, energetic vocals.
“Love Thing” is the best thing on Bare, but the album has several other standout tracks. The similarly titled “This Is Not a Love Song” (download) also features a defiant chorus that will resonate with anyone who’s ever been kicked to the curb by an ex; “Don’t Make Me Love You” (download) works itself into a soulful lather (“The flesh is weak,” Williams explains); and “Let Me Be Your Baby” (download), featured on Giant’s Beverly Hills, 90210 soundtrack alongside Jeremy Jordan’s underrated “The Right Kind of Love,” creates a memorable late-night groove. Lyrically, Williams doesn’t dig too deep, but he’s no slouch when it comes to well-placed, sturdily crafted hooks, and he’s smart enough to keep the vocal histrionics in check.
Williams hasn’t been on a major label since Bare, but he still records and performs overseas. On a “study abroad” trip to England in ’97 I discovered Bare‘s follow-up, The Drop, which contains a few more memorable pop-soul contenders, including the lead-off track, “Sex Life” (download), on which Williams pleads, “My sex life needs your attention / Can’t wait for divine intervention.” Personally, I can’t wait for him to release another top-shelf collection of songs.
Bare can be purchased at Amazon.com.