A few weeks ago in the Soul In Stereo Cypher, we ran a poll to select the next batch of album rankings, because y’all LOVE album rankings.
Tony Toni Tone ran away with the victory and since I respect the democratic process, here we are.
It’s not like you had to twist my arm for this one.
We so often talk about names like Boyz II Men, Jodeci, Dru Hill, 112, Jagged Edge and Silk when celebrating R&B’s biggest and best 90s male groups. D’Wayne Wiggins, Timothy Christian Riley and Raphael Saadiq are too often left out of that convo – they might not have been as flashy as their peers but their impact is undeniable. Multi-platinum albums, a bunch of chart-topping singles, crossover success and unquestionable classics, Tony Toni Tone were an integral part of R&B’s mainstream success in the mid-90s.
Let’s celebrate that legacy by looking back at their LPs, ranking ’em from bottom to top. And no, this list will not include any solo projects, nor Saadiq’s short but acclaimed run with Lucy Pearl. We might fold those into a later list, but today, let’s just celebrate one of R&B’s most pivotal trios.
And should out to my mom, who was totally baffled by the group’s name. “So two are named Tony and the other is named TONE?”
4. Who? (1988)
Soul In Stereo rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Edd said: Tony Toni Tone’s debut is an album that can be summed up with one word – potential. Now that certainly doesn’t mean it wasn’t very successful, it clearly was. All four singles broke the R&B top 10, with the gospel-laced “Little Walter” climbing all the way to No. 1. However, the guys hadn’t quite developed their signature sound, with half of the album sounding pretty interchangeable with other hits of the era. It’s the second half of this album where things pick way up, giving us a glimpse of the greatness to come. Also are we not allowed to say “2.615” is a jam? If you know you know.
Forgotten favorites: “Pain,” “Not Gonna Cry for You,” “For the Love of You”
3. House of Music (1996)
Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5
Edd said: It feels wrong to rank an album this strong so low on the list, but that’s just a reflection of Tony Toni Tone’s impressive catalog. Admittedly, I wasn’t a huge fan of this one at the time. House of Music’s slinky 70s soul and throwback blueprint didn’t connect with me as easily as the more hip-hop drenched R&B of era. Blame Puff I guess. But man, House of Music‘s timeless sound has aged like fine wine. The musings on life, love and spirituality are a perfect fit for the mellow production. Arguably, front to back, House of Music is Tony Toni Tone’s most seamless album, it just doesn’t hit the highs of their earlier work.
Forgotten favorites: “Til Last Summer,” “Holy Smokes & Gee Whiz,” “Tossin’ & Turnin’”
2. Sons of Soul (1993)
Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5
Edd said: If I were a betting man (and I’m not because I’m much too cheap for that), Sons of Soul would have landed at the top of this list. And trust, you can make a VERY strong argument for that. Sons of Soul might be the best representation of the group’s boundless creativity, and that’s all due to the diversity of the sounds presented. Hip-hop, soul, funk and even Trinidadian influence are all represented here. Just don’t tell Twitter about the “Ex-Girlfriend” song, the Think Piece Posse would have a field day.
Forgotten favorites: “Slow Wine,” “What Goes Around Comes Around,” “Castleers”
1. The Revival (1990)
Soul In Stereo rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Edd said: The Revival is basically a hit factory. Tony Toni Tone truly found themselves on their sophomore release by redefining their formula. It still has the wacky humor and exuberance of its predecessor but with a much more focused approach. The result? Four No. 1 tracks, including some of TTT’s most memorable hits. But what really elevates this one to the top spot is the album’s sequencing, especially that stretch from “It Never Rains” to “Sky’s the Limit.” It’s one of R&B’s best sophomore albums and, yes, Toni Tony Tone’s best too.
Forgotten favorites: “I Care,” “Sky’s the Limit,” “Oakland Stroke”
With four albums this good, it’s hard to pick one for the top spot, but what’s your favorite Tony Toni Tone album? Let us know below.