Review: “Thought ‘Ya Knew” by Ce Ce Peniston (CD, 1994)

Today’s Pop Rescue from an uncertain fate, is 1994’s Thought ‘Ya Knew – the second album by American singer Ce Ce Peniston. Will this album put you In The Mood for more, or will you be Searchin’ for the off switch? Read on…

Ce Ce Peniston - Thought 'Ya Knew (album)
Ce Ce Peniston – Thought ‘Ya Knew (album)

This 15 track CD opens with UK non-charting promo Searchin’, throwing us straight into a sleek R&B sound courtesy of producer Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley, during which CeCe shows off her vocals. The track is quite bouncy thanks to a thick bass line, and a repeated whistle riff, which sews it all together and keeps it feeling catchy. The backing vocals work really well alongside her vocals, and they help to lift the track when CeCe hits the real big notes. We’re off to a great start.

Lead single I’m In The Mood (East 87th St. Mix) is next, and it throws us amongst an upbeat piano which reminds me a little of We Got A Love Thang from her previous album. This track gave CeCe a much needed top 20 hit in the UK, where it reached #16. Two songs in and it does feel like CeCe was likely up against acts like Eternal and En Vogue with this early-mid 1990’s sound. The use of the piano and feint brass quips help to keep this song catchy and funky, and CeCe’s vocals are absolutely flawless here.

We’re Hit By Love next, and we’re straight into quite a banging beat and some more relaxed piano chord sequences. Once again, CeCe’s vocals sound wonderful throughout. It has that ability of feeling chilled out whilst upbeat, in a way I remember from the album version of Where Is The Feeling? by Kylie Minogue, also in 1994. It breaks down at about the 2m 40s mark, which really shows how thudding that beat is, and makes me wonder whether there are some big mixes of this track hanging around somewhere. Its only downside is that it goes on for 4m 36s, and could easily have lost 1m. Despite this, the track gave CeCe another Top 40 UK charting single, reaching #33.

We’re into ballad territory now with Whatever It Is, which is loaded with plenty of ‘oooh’ and ‘yeah yeah’ moments. The track once again has a wonderfully thick sluggish bass line, and the backing vocals sit perfectly beneath CeCe’s vocals. However, the vocals sound like they’re just wandering around to a track that’s meandering about, resulting in something that’s fairly forgettable and hard to follow.

Forever In My Heart is next, and this is firmly in the textbook American ballad crowd pleaser territory. Imagine some kind of Mariah Carey ballad – immaculate heartfelt vocals, warm and rich backing vocals, over a simple plodding track with some synth strings. Brian McKnight is on production and writer duties here, and he might have phoned this in. Not to discredit CeCe’s vocals, which once again are perfectly exhibited here – it’s just a dull track, and certainly for so early in the album.

The tempo is back for I’m Not Over You, complete with some more nods to earlier hits We Gotta Love Thang and Finally. We’re even treated to some robotic vocals alongside some big vocals from CeCe. This song has a nice welcome burst of energy to it. The track was wasted slightly, when it was released as the b-side to Hit By Love in Europe, whilst it got a lead track single release in the US. It really should have been a single in its own right, as a handy bridge between the styles of her first and second album.

That’s followed by Any Way You Wanna Go, again opening with sampled vocals and CeCe doing plenty of ‘ooh woo woo’ set over a funky R&B beat. There’s some really nice beats here, and it shuffles along well, with CeCe’s vocals taking centre stage. I could imagine this being covered by a boy band like New Kids On The Block – particularly as there’s an almost tiny rap part. Despite the song’s title, the track doesn’t particularly go anywhere.

It sounds like we’re transported to a film noir back street at the start of Give What I’m Givin’ before this funky track starts. It reminds me a little of Janet Jackson and SWV. What it then leads on to is a nice little R&B track with some wonderful sounding drums. The vocals are a little buried in the mix in competition with those drums, but the song sounds really nice. The track takes a weird almost-Cuban trip in the last 5 seconds, as her male companion tells her to hurry up, and the track ends.

Through Those Doors follows this. This is a song about strength, and CeCe’s lyrics and vocals do the job here. The track has a really nice downbeat sound, and CeCe’s backing vocals alongside the songwriter Andrea Martin’s work really well. Vocal harmonies also work well here, alongside the rapping too, which gives a slick juxtaposition to CeCe’s melodious, warm, and rich vocals.

Next is Let My Love Surround You and this is quite an easy track. Once again, booming beats keep this track upbeat, with some nice lyrical moments in the chorus that make that part quite catchy. CeCe is able to cut through the heavy beats, but she really shines in the breakdown section where she can show off her vocals.

Single Keep Givin’ Me Your Love is the closest here to her earlier successful singles, bouncing along wonderfully with the piano reminiscent of Finally, and the vocals of We Gotta Love Thang. It’s a great little pop track and it’s perhaps unsurprising to find David Morales on production duties. CeCe really gets to show off her vocal range and power. The track was the second single from the album to chart in the UK, but sadly got stuck at #36. Again, I bet there are some great remixes of this track.

We’re into a heartfelt slow song again with If You Love Me, I Will Love You, which gives us a lot of big and wonderfully powerful vocals from CeCe over a pretty simple plodding track. It’s a great showcase of the vocals, but the musical track is pretty predictable and safe.

Maybe It’s The Way is next, and if you thought the earlier songs were slow, then this takes you to a new level. However, CeCe really does give some wonderfully heartfelt rich vocals. She’s momentarily pitched against a flittering saxophone, and some almost angelic backing vocals that give her some wonderful harmonies to soar above – and she does.

Penultimate track I Will Be Received follows this, opening with some nice piano and guitar riffs over a simple beat. CeCe is joined by some gospel styled backing vocals for this somewhat lyrically religious-themed song.

By contrast, the album closes with a 7m 25s I’m In The Mood (Bad Yard Club) mix courtesy of David Morales, and we’re treated to plenty of stabby piano sequences, a dance beat, and CeCe’s vocals shining brightly. This mix delivers her safely into the dance sound that you’re probably more familiar with, and gives us a nice upbeat catchy ending to the album. This track was added to the end of the album for the Europe, UK, and Japanese market, perhaps to help reassure those audiences that this CeCe can still be the one they’d known and loved.

CeCe Peniston’s lead single ‘I’m In The Mood’ (1993)

Verdict

Over all, this album is a slick R&B album, and a perfect example of early-mid 1990s music.

Despite that, there are nods here to the sound that gave her earlier success within tracks I’m In The Mood, Hit By Love, Keep Givin’ Me Your Love, and I’m Not Over You being the most easily reminiscent of this. These are highlights – alongside Through Those Doors.

There is an abundance of songs here, and the low point is probably Forever In My Heart, which could easily have been recorded by absolutely any female American balladeer and would have sounded the same. It’s also worth nothing, that many of the songs here are quite long – the album comes in at 1 hour and 13mins (across 15 tracks), with all but one song reaching over 4 minutes, and four of these beyond 5 minutes long. This makes some of them just a bit too longwinded.

CeCe seemingly struggled to capture success in the UK with this album’s singles, as since her huge Finally and We Gotta Love Thang hits, the likes of En Vogue and the UK’s homegrown Eternal had emerged, all vying for that R&B crown in the UK charts. One CeCe just doesn’t seem to have been able to compete, but the smoothness of this album makes it a good strong follow up, and evolution.

Rated 4 stars - You're missing a treat!
  • POP RESCUE 2022 RATING: 4 / 5
  • 1994 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #31
  • POP RESCUE COST: £1.70 from an eBay seller.

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