DeepSoul: Dennis Edwards - "Don't Look Any Further"

The Temptations lead singer is responsible for one of the most irresistible and memorable R&B singles from the 1980s.
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One of the best R&B tracks of the 1980s, Dennis Edwards' "Don't Look Any Further" has been sampled in over 54 songs.  Beloved by hip hop artists, the track is also notable for introducing listeners to Siedah Garrett, a Quincy Jones protégé who would later play a major role in Michael Jackson's career.  Featuring a smooth groove and African-tinged chorus, "Don't Look Any Further" proved to be Edwards' only major solo hit outside of his usual gig as lead singer for the Temptations.  

Born in Birmingham in 1943, Edwards moved with his family to Detroit at age seven.  As a teen he sang in the gospel group Crowns of Joy, then formed his own band Dennis Edwards and the Firebirds.  Funk Brother and legendary Motown bassist James Jamerson saw Edwards perform and encouraged him to audition for the Contours (best known for their 1962 hit "Do You Love Me?") in the mid-1960s.  By 1968, however, Edwards had replaced David Ruffin as lead singer for the Temptations, and his gravelly voice helmed such classics as "Cloud Nine," "I Can't Get Next to You," "Ball of Confusion," "Psychedelic Shack," and "Papa Was a Rolling Stone."  Perhaps inspired by this string of successes, Edwards first departed the Temptations in 1977 to forge a solo career; he returned in 1979, only to leave again in 1983.  Releasing the album Don't Look Any Further in 1984, Edwards finally scored a hit with the title track.  

A slice of reggae-inspired soul, "Don't Look Any Further" was intended as a duet with Chaka Khan; instead, the demo track's original singer Garett won the role.  While it reached only 72 on the Billboard Hot 100, it greatly impacted the R&B charts by peaking at number two.  Unfortunately the followup single, "(You're My) Aphrodisiac," failed to replicate the hit's success, and Edward's solo career eventually cooled.  After releasing one more album, he returned to the Temptations in 1987.  

What makes "Don't Look Any Further" a superb example of 1980s R&B is its use of the slow build.  A gentle beat leads into the song, the rhythm immediately establishing a laid-back groove.  The bass adds a touch of funk to the reggae-inflected drums, aided by the skipping melody of the synthesizer.  Edward's soulful vocals then enters the picture, a Teddy Pendergrass-reminiscent style that perfectly suites the "quiet storm" feel of the track.  After some ad libbing, he delivers the opening lines in a gentler voice: "Someone to count on in a world of change / Here I am, stop where you're standin'."  Only a confident singer could convincingly croon lines such as "What you need is a lover, a man to take over / Oh girl, don't look any further" without sounding egotistical, and Edwards conquers the task with aplomb.  

The first instrumental break introduces his duet partner, Garrett, and she quickly illustrates her chemistry with Edwards.  Their voices blend perfectly, with Garrett executing some complicated harmonics.  They engage in sensual vocal exchanges during the bridge, with Edwards seducing his partner (and Garrett's soaring voice on the line "and we'll go on and on and on" suggesting her willingness to go along with the program).  Finally the song leads up to the subsequently heavily sampled chorus, one which lingers in the memory long after the record ends.  "Day-o day-o, mombajee ai-o, well / Don't look any further," they sing, lending a world music aspect to the track.

As they enter the last half of "Don't Look Any Further," Edwards and Garrett's voices increase in volume and intensity, again exemplifying the slow build technique.  When Edwards virtually shouts "Here I am, stop where your standin'," the listener senses his rapidly increasing desire.  Garrett matches him in this deep emotion, responding with "What you need is a lover, to love you all over."  She sounds as confident as when he delivered a similar line in the first verse.  Here they are equals in seduction, and Garrett also proves she can more than hold her own with the experienced soul singer Edwards.  When she delivers the intense "And we'll go on" line toward the end and the two singers ad lib together, the song has reached its crescendo and slowly fades out.  

Garrett would soon gain fame for duetting with Jackson on "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" and cowriting one of his signature tracks, "Man in the Mirror."  She continued working with mentor Jones, most notably on his 1989 album Back to the Block, and briefly joined the UK acid jazz group Brand New Heavies.  But her 1984 duet with Edwards on "Don't Look Any Further" first introduced her to the larger music world.  As for Edwards, he earned bragging rights for one of the most distinctive and irresistible tracks of the 1980s, one that has only gained in stature 30 years later.