Lil’ Jon featuring Usher & Ludacris: Lovers & Friends
from Crunk Juice (TVT, 2004)

Michael Sterling: Lovers And Friends
from Trouble (New, 1990). Also appears on Right Now (bonus CD) (Empire Musicwerks, 2002); The Best of Michael Sterling Vol. 1 (Darkside Entertainment, 2004)

Michael Sterling: Round & Round & Round
from Right Now (Empire Musicwerks, 2002)

Michael Sterling: Black To Blue
from Right Now (bonus CD) (Empire Musicwerks, 2002)

Michael Sterling: I Know How You Feel
from Trouble (New, 1990)

It’s true – I get a lot of records in the mail. Ask anyone who’s been to the crib and squeezed into the one available seat on the couch. Or ask those people who were forced to seek relaxation, how you say, elsewhere in the apartment. I have CDs in the bedroom. I have CDs in the living room. I have CDs in the small little alcove outside the bathroom. I have CDs in the kitchen — on the countertops; in the cabinets. Food? Not so much.

The question, of course, is: Why the FUCK do you keep all of those CDs, Jon?

Why, for moments like this.

When the story broke about how Lil Jon had basically jacked “Lovers & Friends” whole hog from Michael Sterling, a light of recognition went off and led me right to the stack of unlistened-to R&B records from a couple of years back (Yes flacks, such a pile exists). Just as I’d thought, there was brother Sterling’s album, conveniently packaged with a bonus best-of that featured the original version of that very song.

I’ll let y’all do the judging on this one. Actually, I won’t – it’s a fulltime jack move, right down to the Usher vocal ad-libs.

Consider this a career highlight for Sterling, though, a Miami R&B journeyman with his share of regional hits but no national love. Some cobbled together data on Sterling: Did some electro-rap work with Gigolo. Dropped an album, No Such Animal, on Skywalker. Did behind the boards work with Poison Clan, DJ Magic Mike, 2 Live Crew.

But most of all, know this: Sterling was a man … with … sens-uh-tiv-it-ee. And he sounded like Ralph Tresvant to boot. Why his brand of quiet storm didn’t hit harder north of the Carolinas I’ll never understand. The original song appeared on Sterling’s 1990 LP Trouble (which someone just copped for relatively cheap on eBay.), though it was, until recently, new to my ears.

Sterling’s latest incarnations haven’t progressed very far beyond his ’80s and early ’90s ones. Right Now, released in 2003, might be the very last New Jack Swing album ever recorded. “Round & Round & Round” is the greatest 1990 dance-R&B record to have come out in the last few years or so ( An overstatement, but what are you gonna do about it?).

The bonus disc, subtitled “Back Then,” is pretty much straight fire though, an end to end smolderer, featuring “L&F” and a dozen more quiet-storm gem, including “Black To Blue.”

I also included a little post-electro jernt from Trouble, “I Know How You Feel,” as a nod to Sterling’s earlier days.

Come shop with me. Or send me the Sterling MP3s I couldn’t find, particularly the ’80s stuff. I promise to share.