LOVE STORIES, the eagerly-awaited sophomore album by award-winning songwriter, producer and artist Gordon Chambers is reminiscent of the joyful music heard in the '70s by artists like Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind and Fire. Chambers declares, "A lot of that music was happy-sounding and fun, orchestral but with a beat. As this album evolved, I found we were recording more material with a tempo. That wasn't something I planned, but I'd like to think that LOVE STORIES is in that tradition of the classic soul music of the ‘70s with a fresh, cutting-edge feel."
Like many of the great works of that era, the original compositions on Chambers' follow-up to his critically-acclaimed self-titled 2005 debut consist of full-on stories in song or musical vignettes. "Every song on the album is a love story," says the accomplished music man, whose catalog of credits includes hits with Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Anita Baker, Yolanda Adams, Patti Labelle and The Isley Brothers (2006's R&B chartopper, "Just Came Here To Chill"). "Some are personal but mostly, they're not. I'd like to think that, as a listener, wherever you are in your journey of love, there's something here for you."
From the celebratory opening cut, "The Next Time" to the wistful yearning of "To Love Again" (a memorable duet with soul stylist Ledisi), through the beautifully-orchestrated "Violins," LOVE STORIES fulfills on Chambers' creative vision. "Honestly, I was thinking of doing a live album as the follow-up to my first CD," says Chambers, who spent much of 2005 and 2006 touring and performing, introducing audiences eager to hear soul music, 21st century-style. "Wherever I would go, I'd be asked ‘when are you coming out with new music?' by people who bought the first album. It was their encouragement that had me look at songs I'd recorded for the first CD that we didn't finish, as well as others I had recorded since then. I found I had enough to start out this second record…"
With a focus on upbeat songs that allow Chambers to emphasize the energy and dynamism audiences have come to expect from his live shows, LOVE STORIES exudes a certain joy and sense of celebration: "Get To Know," co-written and produced by Barry Eastmond (with whom Chambers collaborated on the Grammy-winning "I Apologize" for Anita Baker) is a ‘stepper's delight'; "Stay Together," a rendition of a song recorded in recent years by The Temptations; and the pop-flavored "Unfair" (co-produced with top Swedish hitmaker Arnthor Birgisson), are prime examples. Not that the album is bereft of the kind of great love ballads for which Chambers has built a reputation as an established songwriter: try "By My Side," the inspirational "Still Blessing Me" (featuring Melonie Daniels) or the haunting "If It Wasn't For Your Love," which Chambers explains, "was originally written about my parents. Heather Headley recorded it on her first album and I continually get requests for sheet music for it. People want to use it for different themes - weddings and anniversaries and so on. One of the lyric lines says, ‘Finally, I see how it is to live a dream.' My parents have always supported me with a real foundation in life so the song was written from a place of my gratitude to them. It's very personal and expresses the heart of who I am."
In the tradition of recording versions of songs from his own catalog (expressed with his much-loved version of "I Apologize" on his debut CD), Chambers pays similar homage with a a soulful reprise of his 1994 award-winning smash "If You Love Me," originally recorded by Brownstone. While the majority of tunes on LOVE STORIES are Chambers originals, the New Jersey-born, Brooklyn resident called on fellow tunesmiths for a couple of the tracks. He notes, "The song ‘Violins' was intended for the first project. It was written by one of my songwriting partners, Troy Taylor and a new and very promising writer, Claude Kelly. We felt it needed real violins and we figured out how to include them for this album: we got some former students from the Berkley School of Music and recorded it there. 'Bygones' is a gorgeous song that I first heard when I went to see Sherrod Barnes, who is one of New York's best guitarists and songwriters – he tours with Roberta Flack and has written for Destiny's Child. I was very moved by the lyrics. It's very poetic in a simply way and it's about letting things go, wiping the slate clean. There's a life lesson in there for those who listen to the lyrics…"
Writing lyrics that touch and inspire has been Gordon Chambers' stock in trade since he began his journey as a multi-faceted artist after some years as the entertainment editor for world-renowned ESSENCE magazine. An interview with Queen Latifah in 1993 resulted in Chambers' first songwriting assignment ("Winki's Theme" on Latifah's Black Reign album), but he had in fact been preparing to step into the world of music from an early age. "My parents always encouraged me as a child and I was able to take music lessons whenever I wanted and needed. They really gave me an environment which could explore my creativity and I'm so grateful that they supported me," he recalls, noting that he started out playing several instruments including trumpet and piano. In college, he befriended fellow students like star session singer Cindy Mizelle and Gordon's own vocal skills first came to the fore in the jazz genre. "I liked jazz because it had no rules and you didn't have to have a ‘big' voice. I could have my own sound so experimenting with jazz and singing off the cuff worked just fine!"
After graduating from the prestigious Brown University, Gordon landed the job at ESSENCE and before he knew it, Chambers was networking, meeting fellow songwriters, producers and aspiring artists. A session for the late Phyllis Hyman led to a meeting with (producer) Barry Eastmond who was working with Anita Baker at the time; by the end of 1994, Chambers' name would appear on Baker's double-platinum album Rhythm Of Love, and he would find himself with a major pop and R&B Top 10 hit with Brownstone via the song, "If You Love Me."
In 1997, Chambers started devoting his time entirely to music and in short order, his name would appear on Angie Stone's 1999 major hit single, "No More Rain" and on tracks recorded by Patti Labelle, Brandy, Carl Thomas, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight and Jamie Foxx, and Beyonce among others; by 2000, he was in the studio producing and in the last four years, Gordon's produced tracks for soulful divas Aretha Franklin (for her 2003 release So Damn Happy) and Whitney Houston among others.
The turning point in Chambers' decision to step into the foreground as an artist came at a Houston session: "I was working with Whitney on the song, "I Wish" and I had to sing some of it as a guide for her. She turned to me and said, ‘You want to do what I do, don't you? So…go for it!'" Those words of encouragement from Houston, along with constant support for live performances he'd been doing in and around New York for the past few years, was the catalyst for Chambers to get to work on his debut album, released in 2005. Working closely with producers Troy Taylor, Barry Eastmond and Brian Bacchus, and with special guests including singer-songwriter Glenn Lewis and saxophonist Mike Phillips, Chambers fashioned a tour-de-force record that served as a dazzling showcase for his soulful vocal artistry. From his own versions of songs he's written but were recorded by others - such as "I Apologize" and "My Valentine" (recorded by hitmaking vocalist Carl Thomas who is featured on the track with renowned trumpeter Roy Hargrove) – to strong originals like "Touch You There," "Still In Love," "That's When You Fall In Love" and the standout ballad, "I'll Miss You Most," the album immediately began picking up rave reviews, particularly with discerning music lovers both in the U.S., Europe and beyond.
Chambers' debut album became a hit on the independent soul circuit and was named "Independent Soul Album" by Soul Tracks.com who also saluted Chambers as "Independent Soul Male Artist" of 2005. With the album a best-seller at CD Baby, Chambers set out on a two-year run of performances that have included appearances at the ESSENCE Music Festival, New York's world-renowned Blue Note three times, B.B. King's in New York, BAMCafé in Brooklyn, New York, the California African-American Museum, Harlem Week (before a crowd of over 15,000), Chicago's Northalsted Market Street Festival, and shows for the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, DC in both 2005 and 2006. Chambers has participated in tributes to Marvin Gaye and Luther Vandross, has been featured in ESSENCE and EBONY magazines, been included in a 2006 Billboard magazine cover story article focusing on the indie soul movement, and appeared on the popular "Being Bobby Brown" TV show. He's shared the stage with a number of soul music luminaries including Patti Labelle, Stephanie Mills, Freddie Jackson, Ashford & Simpson, the late Gerald Levert, Will Downing, Lalah Hathaway, Faith Evans and fellow independent soul artists Rahsaan Patterson, Anthony David and Eric Roberson. Chambers was personally chosen by popular author E. Lynn Harris for inclusion on a promotional CD to promote Harris' book, I Say A Little Prayer, released in 2006. Harris included the two songs - "I'll Miss You Most" and "My Imagination" – from Chambers debut CD, after gaining inspiration from his music during the writing of his latest best-seller.
The enthusiastic international response to his debut album resulted in performances in London, Paris and Canada and before 2006 was over, Chambers' song "Family Reunion" (featuring Yolanda Adams, Chaka Khan, Carl Thomas and Gerald Levert) landed a Grammy nomination. He also began working on songs with both Adams and Patti Labelle. Inspired by the reaction to his first album, Chambers began working on LOVE STORIES in 2006. "Being out on the road and performing, it was a wonderful surprise to know that there really is a healthy, adult, R&B-supporting community out there for independent artists such as myself," he says. "The presence of internet and e-commerce websites, soul music conferences and promoters has been a tremendous help. They received my music so well. Now, with the confidence I've gotten vocally from performing live and knowing there is an audience out there for good soul music, I'm ready to get out there again and share LOVE STORIES."