House of Music

House of Music
A black-and-white photo of the band members seated with the album name written above them.
Studio album by
ReleasedNovember 19, 1996 (1996-11-19)
RecordedSeptember 1995 – September 1996
GenreR&B, soul, funk
ProducerDJ Quik, G-One, Tony! Toni! Toné! (also exec.)
Tony! Toni! Toné! chronology
Sons of Soul
House of Music
Singles from House of Music
  1. "Let's Get Down"
    Released: October 28, 1996
  2. "Thinking of You"
    Released: March 11, 1997

House of Music is the fourth and final album by American R&B band Tony! Toni! Toné! It was released on November 19, 1996, by Mercury Records. It followed the success of the band's 1993 Sons of Soul album and a hiatus marked by the members' individual musical projects.

For House of Music, Tony! Toni! Toné! regrouped in 1995 and worked at studios in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Sacramento. Bassist and vocalist Raphael Saadiq, guitarist and vocalist D'wayne Wiggins, and percussionist/keyboardist Timothy Christian Riley worked on songs for the album independently before recording them together as a group. Most of the album was produced by the group; the only song to feature outside production was "Let's Get Down", by Saadiq and rapper/producer DJ Quik and G-One.

Tony! Toni! Toné! sought to emphasize musicianship rather than production technique during the sessions. The record expanded on their previous work's traditional R&B influences with live instrumentation and balladry. Music journalists have noted the album's incorporation of traditional and contemporary sensibilities, themes of love and romance, and witty, sensitive lyrics. Tony! Toni! Toné! named House of Music after a small record store in the band's native city of Oakland, which Wiggins said they were reminded of after listening to the album.

The album charted for 31 weeks on the Billboard 200, peaking at number 32, and was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It also received widespread acclaim from critics, who praised Tony! Toni! Toné!'s musicianship and songwriting. An international tour promoting House of Music was planned but did not materialize amid growing tensions within the group stemming from creative differences. They disbanded shortly after the album's release to pursue separate music careers.


Tony! Toni! Toné! took a hiatus as a group after the commercial and critical success of their third album Sons of Soul (1993). According to vocalist and bassist Raphael Wiggins, each member had pursued individual music projects, and "the group was trying to figure out where everybody's time, space and head was at."[1] He, D'wayne Wiggins, and Timothy Christian Riley worked on songwriting and production for other recording artists during the band's hiatus, including D'Angelo, En Vogue, Karyn White, Tevin Campbell, and A Tribe Called Quest.[2] Raphael Wiggins adopted the surname "Saadiq" for his professional name in 1994—"man of his word" in Arabic—and released his solo single "Ask of You" in 1995.[3] Their work outside the band led to rumors of a break-up during the time between albums, before regrouping to record House of Music.[4]

Recording and production

House of Music was recorded in sessions that began in September 1995 and took place at the following California-based studios: Brillian Studios and Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco; Coda Studios and Grass Roots Studios in Oakland; Encore Studios, Image Recording, and Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles; and Pookie Labs and Woodshed Studios in Sacramento.[5]

Tony! Toni! Toné! used vintage recording equipment and, for certain tracks, a 40-piece orchestra.[6] Some songs featured guest musicians, including rapper and producer DJ Quik, percussionist Sheila E., and the Tower of Power horn section.[7] Saadiq worked with DJ Quik on the song "Let's Get Down" and said the collaboration proved very "natural" because of the producer's affinity for funk music.[1] Tony! Toni! Toné! wanted to record the album with an emphasis on musicianship rather than production flair. Wiggins felt that the absence of their once prominent synthesizers made the resulting music sound more distinctive. "On a lot of the songs, you can just imagine a five-piece band performing", he later told USA Today.[7]

Unlike the group's previous albums, each member arranged, composed, and produced songs on their own before putting the finished recordings together for House of Music.[8] According to Saadiq, "what I did was write a lot of stuff and rehearse it for about a month, then recorded it live. Then [Wiggins and Riley] would add their parts separately."[9] He worked with his own recording crew for House of Music, featuring guitarist Chalmers "Spanky" Alford, drummer Tommy Branford, and keyboardists Kelvin Wooten and Cedric Draper.[10] Wiggins believed the band's hiatus benefited the recording of House of Music, making them less likely to produce an album derivative of Sons of Soul.[8]

It's not just a bunch of grooves that we put together and made sure that the tempo fit. Lyrically and musically, it talks about something, and you're able to feel the emotion buildup that we felt when we were making the songs. It's funny though. Even though we did the music separately, when we got together, it all had the same kind of sound.

D'wayne Wiggins (1996)[8]

The album's opening track, the Al Green-styled "Thinking of You", was one that the group conceived and recorded together at 3 a.m. in Saadiq's Pookie Labs studio. As he remembered it, "I was just playing around and started singing off the top of my head. I never wrote anything down, it was just what came out."[7] "Annie May", one of Wiggins' songs for House of Music, had Saadiq's backing vocals pre-recorded and then overdubbed to the track's final mix.[11]

Tony! Toni! Toné! completed recording House of Music in September 1996. The album was then mastered by Brian Gardner at the Bernie Grundman Mastering studio in Hollywood.[5] One of Saadiq's songs for the album, "Me and the Blind Man", was excluded from the final mix because, as Saadiq told Yahoo! Music, "they didn't want anybody playing favorites, so one of my songs had to come off." The recording was a moody blues piece with surrealistic lyrics about lust, longing, and a fictitious blind man's secret powers. Saadiq wanted to show "a darker side ... some depth" to listeners with the song. "To me songs like 'Blind Man,' make the whole sound, the House of Music", he remarked. It was featured on an album sampler sent by the group's label to music journalists.[11]

Music and lyrics

House of Music expanded on Tony! Toni! Toné!'s previous traditional R&B-influenced work by emphasizing live instrumentation and ballads.[12] In the opinion of Daily Herald writer Dan Kening, the album continued the band's mix of contemporary R&B and old-fashioned soul, deeming it "half a tribute to their '60s and '70s soul music roots and half a masterful blend of modern smooth balladeering and danceable funk."[13] Salon critic Jennie Yabroff believed House of Music mostly featured ballads in the form of "slow, emotional numbers with muted beats" that accentuated the lyrics.[14] According to Drum magazine, mid-tempo songs such as "Thinking of You" and "Still a Man" relied strongly on 1960s R&B/soul "given a contemporary face", while up-tempo songs such as "Lovin' You", "Don't Fall in Love", and "Let's Get Down" had elements of funk.[15]

The lyrics on House of Music were described by several journalists as witty and sensitive.[16] Michaelangelo Matos of the Chicago Reader characterized Saadiq's songwriting as playful and quirky, while comparing his tenor singing voice to that of a young Michael Jackson. On Wiggins' songwriting style, Matos said his melodies and rhythms were more subtle than those of Saadiq and observed "burnished obbligatos, hushed burr, and starry-eyed falsetto" in Wiggins' singing.[17] Saadiq alternated with Wiggins as lead vocalist for the album.[13] Richard Torres of Newsday attributed the group's lyrics on the album to their "[belief] in the power of love and the lure of romance."[18]

According to Saadiq, the opening track "Thinking of You" is "a really soul, southern, funky song" inspired by Al Green.[1] It has light guitar strokes and is sung in a Southern twang by Saadiq, while "Top Notch" features jazz elements and the vocalist's playful promise of a trip to Denny's for "the most expensive dinner we can find".[20] On "Still a Man", he sings from the perspective of a man who was left by his wife to raise their children alone.[21] The backing vocalists sing the meditative hook, "Have you ever loved somebody / Who loves you so much it hurts you to hurt them so bad?"[22] On "Holy Smokes & Gee Whiz", Saadiq's older brother Randall Wiggins sings lead.[23] It was described by Washington City Paper journalist Rickey Wright as a modernized version of the Stylistics' 1972 song "Betcha by Golly, Wow", featuring "a dead-on impression of Russell Thompkins' unmistakable falsetto and precise diction".[21]

"Annie May" was written by Wiggins as a story about a "good girl next door" who becomes an exotic dancer, while "Let Me Know" is a love song with Wall of Sound elements.[24] According to Nick Krewen of The Spectator, "Wild Child" is "a ballad in the grand sense" of the 1977 Earth, Wind & Fire song "Be Ever Wonderful".[25] "Party Don't Cry" is a meditation on mortality with jazzy, philosophical overtones.[26] Wright believed the song "expresses an overt spirituality unheard in the Tonyies' past songs".[21] The closing track is a gospel-influenced instrumental and variation of "Lovin' You" composed by Saadiq.[27] Its sole lyric, according to Wright, is a universalist platitude.[21]

Title and packaging

House of Music was named after a record store in the band's native Oakland, which had closed several years prior to the album's release.[7] In an interview for Billboard, Wiggins said, "We title all our albums at the end of the project. We sat back and listened to everything, and it reminded us of this mom-and-pop store around our way in Oakland."[8] "We grew up in a house of music," Wiggins continued, remarking how their father was a blue guitarist and music had a unifying effect on people.[1] According to Billboard's Shawnee Smith, the album's title described a varied, complete work distinct from a contemporary music market oversaturated by "retro-soul groups".[8]

The album's cover and booklet photos were taken by photographer William Claxton, who captured Tony! Toni! Toné! dressed in casual and formal, retro clothing. This departure from the more outré wardrobe of the band's past was interpreted by journalist Brandon Ousley as an effort to promote "the elegance of 1960s-era Black America and legendary soul acts to a modern generation".[28]

Marketing and sales

House of Music was released on November 19, 1996, by Mercury Records. The label planned the release date to coincide with the peak holiday shopping period and ran ad campaigns scheduled for network cable, syndicated television shows, and radio stations.[29] House of Music reached number 32 on the Billboard 200 and spent 31 weeks on the chart.[30] In its first eight weeks, the album sold 318,502 copies in the US.[31] Tony! Toni! Toné! inaugurated its release with a satellite press conference and in-store performance at a small retail outlet in the San Francisco Bay Area. They also embarked on a tour of historically black colleges and Black Independent Coalition record shops after "Let's Get Down" had been sent to R&B and crossover radio on October 28 as the album's lead single; its music video was released to outlets such as BET, The Box, and MTV.[29] Tony! Toni! Toné! performed the song on the sketch comedy show All That; on the music variety program Soul Train, they performed "Let's Get Down" and "Annie May".[32] "Thinking of You" was released as the second single on March 11, 1997, by which time House of Music had sold 514,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.[9] On August 6, the album was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[33]

After House of Music was released, Tony! Toni! Toné! experienced growing tensions stemming from creative differences, business-related problems, and Saadiq's interest in a solo career.[34] "There's a quiet stress between us that no one really talks about", Saadiq told Vibe in 1997. "And what's sad about the whole thing is the fact that our friendship is disintegrating. Who knows, House of Music could be the last Tony Toni Toné album."[35] The band remained committed to promoting the record into 1997, including a February 28 taped performance at VH1's Hard Rock Live special.[36] According to Mercury vice president Marty Maidenberg, an international tour for the album had been planned by October 1996, with concert dates in Japan and the United Kingdom, but it never materialized. In November 1997, Saadiq told the Philadelphia Daily News "there should have been like four singles from that album. You'll have to call Mercury on that. It went Platinum with no promotional tour. We did our job and they made their money."[37] The group disbanded shortly afterwards, and each member went on to pursue an individual music career.[38]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[39]
Boston Herald4/4 stars[40]
Chicago Tribune3.5/4 stars[41]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[42]
Entertainment WeeklyA–[43]
Los Angeles Times4/4 stars[44]
Q4/5 stars[45]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[46]
USA Today4/4 stars[47]
The Village VoiceA[48]

Reviewing House of Music in Entertainment Weekly, Ken Tucker found Tony! Toni! Toné!'s imitations of classic sounds "intelligent, sometimes brilliant", "witty", and "tremendously likable", with "a new recurring theme: what makes a man a man and a woman a woman, explored with both frankness and slyness".[43] Sonia Murray of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution hailed it as the band's most effectual and multifaceted record yet, while Chicago Tribune critic Greg Kot said "they find rapture that is steeped in reality rather than in the upwardly mobile fantasy concocted by many of today's less tradition-conscious R&B crooners."[49] "The Tonies serve as a sort of stylistic missing link", J. D. Considine wrote in The Baltimore Sun, "suggesting what would have happened had the soul styles of the '70s continued to evolve, instead of being tossed aside by the synth-driven sound of the '80s".[50] Michael A. Gonzales from Vibe said the album "glows a vision of blackness that is superbad, mad smooth, and crazy sexy".[51] He described it as "a wonderland of harmonic delights, softcore jollies, and slow-jam fever floating on the tip of Cupid's arrow", showing the group "exploring the sensuality of black pop without sounding like boulevard bullies stalking their objects of desire".[35]

House of Music was voted the 30th best album of 1996 in The Village Voice's Pazz & Jop poll, which polled 236 American critics nationwide.[52] Robert Christgau, the poll's supervisor, ranked it 10th on his own year-end list.[53] In his review for the newspaper, he deemed "Thinking of You" a "hilariously gutsy" and spot-on Al Green homage while writing of the album overall:

In retrospect, Christgau attributed the album's success to Saadiq's lead role in Tony! Toni! Toné! He contended that "only with House of Music did they become true sons of the soul revival, the most accomplished r&b act of the '90s. That's still the album to remember them by."[54] AllMusic editor Leo Stanley later remarked that the group "successfully accomplish their fusion of the traditional and contemporary ... within the framework of memorable, catchy songs" indebted to both old and modern R&B songwriting virtues. According to Stanley, the record had an influence on contemporary neo soul artists such as Tony Rich and Maxwell.[39] In Matos' opinion, the album showcased the increasing artistic contrast between Saadiq and Wiggins, which "had grown so pronounced that the tension only enhanced what was already the group's best batch of songs".[17] Rashod Ollison of The Virginian-Pilot regarded the record as "a flawless gem" on which the band's "amalgamation of traditional and contemporary styles coalesced beautifully".[55] In The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), Fred Schruers said "House of Music consolidates the triumph of Sons of Soul for a masterpiece of 1990s R&B, an album that is as steeped in soul tradition as anything by Maxwell or D'Angelo, but that mixes the homage with humor and deft contemporary touches, thereby creating a new space all its own".[46]

Track listing

Credits are adapted from the album's liner notes.[5]

1."Thinking of You"Timothy Christian Riley, Raphael Saadiq, D'wayne WigginsTony! Toni! Toné!3:56
2."Top Notch"Elijah Baker, Saadiq, Kelvin WootenRaphael Saadiq4:37
3."Let's Get Down"George Archie, David Blake, SaadiqRaphael Saadiq, DJ Quik, G-One4:57
4."Til Last Summer"Riley, John T. Smith, WigginsD'wayne Wiggins, Timothy Christian Riley5:11
5."Lovin' You"SaadiqRaphael Saadiq5:52
6."Still a Man"SaadiqRaphael Saadiq7:17
7."Don't Fall in Love"SaadiqRaphael Saadiq4:44
8."Holy Smokes & Gee Whiz"Michelle Hailey, Carl Wheeler, WigginsD'wayne Wiggins5:01
9."Annie May"Riley, WigginsD'wayne Wiggins5:55
10."Let Me Know"Chalmers Alford, SaadiqRaphael Saadiq4:15
11."Tossin' & Turnin'"WigginsD'wayne Wiggins4:48
12."Wild Child"SaadiqRaphael Saadiq5:36
13."Party Don't Cry"Riley, WigginsD'wayne Wiggins, Timothy Christian Riley5:06
14."Lovin' You (Interlude)"SaadiqRaphael Saadiq1:53


Credits are adapted from the album's liner notes.[5]

Tony! Toni! Toné!

Additional musicians

  • Greg Adams – trumpet
  • Spanky Alford – guitar
  • George Archie – musician
  • Johnny Bamont – saxophone
  • Sue Ann Carwell – background vocals
  • Tommy Bradford – drums
  • DJ Quik – production, triangle, vocals on "Let's Get Down"
  • Pete Escovedo – percussion
  • Clare Fischer – string arrangements
  • Mic Gillette – trombone
  • Elijah Baker Hassan – bass guitar
  • Bobette Jamison-Harrison – background vocals
  • Vince Lars – saxophone
  • Marvin McFadden – trumpet
  • Nick Moroch – guitar
  • Bill Ortiz – trumpet
  • Conesha Owens – background vocals
  • Brenda Roy – background vocals
  • Sheila E. – percussion
  • Jackie Simley – background vocals
  • Joel Smith – bass guitar, drums
  • Charles Veal – orchestration
  • Carl Wheeler – background vocals, engineering, keyboards
  • Randall Wiggins – background vocals, vocals
  • Kelvin Wooten – keyboards, string arrangements
  • Benjamin Wright – string arrangements


  • Danny Alonso – engineering
  • Mike Bogus – assistant engineering, engineering
  • Gerry Brown – engineering, mixing
  • Milton Chan – assistant engineering
  • William Claxton – photography
  • Jim Danis – assistant engineering
  • Tim Donovan – mixing assistance
  • Maureen Droney – production coordination
  • Steve Durkey – mixing assistance
  • Brian Gardner – mastering
  • Danny Goldberg – executive production
  • Margery Greenspan – art direction
  • Darrin Harris – engineering
  • Carter Humphrey – mixing assistance
  • Richard Huredia – mixing assistance
  • Wes Johnson – assistant engineering
  • Booker T. Jones III – mixing
  • Ken Kessie – engineering, mixing
  • Brian Kinkel – engineering
  • Marty Main – assistant engineer, engineering
  • Bill Malina – editing, engineering, mixing
  • Jason Mauza – mixing assistance
  • Marty Ogden – engineering
  • Chris Puram – mixing
  • Tracy Riley – production coordination
  • Skip Saylor – engineering
  • Joey Swails – engineering, programming
  • Raymond Taylor-Smith – mixing assistance
  • Tulio Torrinello, Jr. – engineering
  • Terri Wong – assistant engineer
  • Brian Young – assistant engineer


Chart (1996)[30] Peak
US Billboard 200 32
US Billboard Top R&B Albums 10


Song Chart (1997) Peak
"Let's Get Down" New Zealand Singles Chart[56] 8
UK Singles Chart[57] 33
US Billboard Hot 100 Airplay[58] 30
US Billboard Hot R&B Airplay[59] 4
"Thinking of You" New Zealand Singles Chart[60] 36
US Billboard Hot 100[61] 22
US Billboard Hot R&B Singles[61] 5


  1. ^ a b c d Anon. (a) 1996, p. 12.
  2. ^ Smith 1996, p. 16; Jones (a) 1996, p. 6.D.
  3. ^ Coker 1997; Jones (a) 1996, p. 6.D.
  4. ^ Jones (a) 1996, p. 6.D; Anon. (b) 1996.
  5. ^ a b c d Anon. (b) 1996.
  6. ^ Anon. (c) 1996, p. 26.
  7. ^ a b c d Jones (a) 1996, p. 6.D.
  8. ^ a b c d e Smith 1996, p. 16.
  9. ^ a b Reynolds 1997, p. 21.
  10. ^ Anon. (a) 1997, p. EN16.
  11. ^ a b Linden 1997.
  12. ^ Peitier 1997, p. 54; Brown 1996.
  13. ^ a b Kening 1996, p. 6.
  14. ^ Yabroff 1996.
  15. ^ Anon. (b) 1997, p. 66.
  16. ^ Tucker 1996; Hooper 1996, p. I.4; Matos 2000.
  17. ^ a b Matos 2000.
  18. ^ Torres 1997, p. C.27.
  19. ^ Kening 1996, p. 6; Murray 1996, p. E6; Considine 1996, p. 2.
  20. ^ Murray 1996, p. E6; Wright 1997.
  21. ^ a b c d Wright 1997.
  22. ^ Murray 1996, p. E6.
  23. ^ Wilson-Combs 2003; Anon. (b) 1996.
  24. ^ Anon. (a) 1996, p. 12; Kening 1996, p. 6; Gonzales 1996, p. 168.
  25. ^ Krewen 1997, p. D.4.
  26. ^ Wright 1997; Kening 1996, p. 6.
  27. ^ Yabroff 1996; Anon. (d) 1996.
  28. ^ Wright 1997; Ousley 2016.
  29. ^ a b Smith 1996, p. 20.
  30. ^ a b Anon. (a) n.d.
  31. ^ Goldberg 1997.
  32. ^ Anon. (b) n.d.; Anon. (c) n.d..
  33. ^ Anon. (d) n.d.
  34. ^ Coker 1997; Reynolds 1997, p. 21.
  35. ^ a b Gonzales 1997, p. 74.
  36. ^ Coker 1997; Reynolds 1997, p. 21.
  37. ^ Smith 1996, p. 20; Pendleton 1997.
  38. ^ Green 2003, p. 168.
  39. ^ a b Stanley n.d.
  40. ^ Rodman 1996, p. s.18.
  41. ^ Kot 1996.
  42. ^ Larkin 2011.
  43. ^ a b Tucker 1996.
  44. ^ Johnson 1996.
  45. ^ Anon. (c) 1997, p. 102.
  46. ^ a b Schruers 2004, p. 818.
  47. ^ Jones (b) 1996.
  48. ^ a b Christgau 1996.
  49. ^ Murray 1996, p. E6; Kot 1996.
  50. ^ Considine 1996, p. 2.
  51. ^ Gonzales 1996, p. 168.
  52. ^ Anon. (d) 1997.
  53. ^ Christgau 1997.
  54. ^ Christgau 2008; Christgau 2000, p. 310.
  55. ^ Ollison 2011.
  56. ^ Anon. (e) n.d.
  57. ^ Anon. (f) n.d.
  58. ^ Anon. (e) 1997, p. 96.
  59. ^ Anon. (f) 1997, p. 22.
  60. ^ Anon. (g) n.d.
  61. ^ a b Anon. (h) n.d.


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Further reading

  • Tyus, Billy (December 27, 1996). "'House of Music' Revisits Soulful Past". Herald & Review. Retrieved November 20, 2012.

External links

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