Troop had five #1 singles on the R&B Billboard Charts back in the day, among them a brilliant cover of The Jackson 5's All I Do Is Think of You, Spread My Wings, and a cover of The Deele's song, Sweet November. In this edition of Straight From The Duggerman, I'll explain how I got in touch with Jon Jon and provide commentary on our conversation.
Imagine you randomly get a twitter notification like this one.
I asked him everything I wanted to...questions about their superhuman dance routines, their future plans, influences, comparisons to New Edition, etc. He was really open and honest.
One thing I admire about Troop are the obvious Michael Jackson influences. One of their biggest hits was a cover of a Jackson 5 song, and their 1992 album, Deepa, has the same rhythmic/melodic flow of the New Jack Swing songs on Jackson's hard-hitting Dangerous album. While listening to the tracks on Deepa, you almost hold back waiting for Jackson's voice to appear at one time or another. Listen to tracks like Keep You Next To Me, She Blows My Mind and Strange Hotel and you can easily feel Jackson's spirit.
Apparently, The King of Pop's brother Tito felt the same way. According to Jon Jon, (who is friends with Tito's son Taj) Tito made his sons (3T) listen to Troop's entire music catalog before they started recording their first album, Brotherhood. That is quite a compliment. Another Jackson connection was the fact that Troop worked with some of MJ's cheorgraphers like Jeffrey Daniel. Listening to Troop's music, especially Attitude, Deepa and Sumthin Sumthin, takes me back to that golden New Jack Swing era when we had Soul For Real, Hi-Five, Jodeci, TLC, Bobby Brown and so many other talented R&B singers on the radio all the time. I like it when music takes you places, and no matter what Troop album you play, they do just that.
The biggest surprise to me during the interview was how open Jon Jon was about the band's current situation with former lead singer Alan McNeil, who goes by the name Al Mac these days. I noticed that Al Mac hadn't been performing with Troop for a number of years, but he sung on on the band's new single Forever, which was recorded and released last year. On the track, Al Mac opens and closes the song with his signature vocal riffs. So I thought he was back in the group. Personally I thought the song was so-so, but hearing all their voices on one song was magic, especially since every member got a chance to shine at one part or another. I actually thought this single was released to promote a long-awaited new Troop album, but no such luck.
But this goes to show how fans can never quite tell what drama is going on within a group at any given time. Apparently Al Mac had to be convinced to sing on Forever. "We had to fight tooth and nail to get him to record that song," Jon Jon said. Al Mac emailed his vocals to Steve Russell and was never in the studio with his former bandmates when they recorded Forever.
With hurt in his voice, Jon Jon also revealed that Al Mac made some bad choices and has been blackballed to a degree by the music industry. That sucks to hear. Wow. All groups go through rough patches like this one. I believe in time that Al Mac will be singing with Troop again someday. Heck, if The Temptations could do a reunion after all they went through, surely Troop can! It may not be soon that it happens, but I don't believe this is the end of Al Mac's association with the group.
Al Mac's voice is certainly missed during the live shows but as Jon Jon told me, the fans now get to hear more Jon Jon, which is a plus. I think it's a great idea for Jon Jon to sing Al Mac's old parts. A familiar voice is much easier to digest than that of a new member. A new member may be added to the group, so I hope Jon Jon took my inquiry about joining as a bass singer seriously. (Hint hint). LOL!!
I enjoyed my chat with Jon Jon and I'm glad he was open and fun to talk to. He retweeted our interview a few times and is really appreciative and interactive with his fans. I hope to meet Troop in person when they perform in Nashville. I'll make sure I'm there to cover the show for The Tennessee Tribune. Until then, I'll "spread my wings" and see you in "Sweet November."