It's been 17 years since Al B. Sure recorded a studio album. But with the June 23 release of "Honey I'm Home" (Hidden Beach Recordings), the singer/songwriter joined a current wave of R&B vets—including Ginuwine, Teena Marie and Charlie Wilson—notching strong comebacks on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
Debuting at No. 16 on that chart, "Honey" comes in at No. 49 this week. Meanwhile, the sexy slow jam "I Love It (Papi Aye Aye Aye)," featuring cellist Tina Guo, is No. 26 on Adult R&B.
Working with songwriter/producers like Kyle West and Michael Mani on "Honey," Sure stays true to the romantic lane he navigated in the late '80s when he helped usher in the New Jack Swing era. "This was a fun, creative process of writing and finding songs; no rushed effort," Sure says of the album's gestation. "It allowed me to be me through solid compositions reflecting my feelings."
Focusing on the central themes of love, romance and relationships, the album features 10 original songs written and co-produced by Sure. Also included are two covers: Sting's "Fragile" and Michael Jackson's "The Lady in My Life." Of the latter, Sure says, "I'm just truly in love with the feel and fabric of that song."
"Honey" opens with a little déjà vu: an interlude version of Sure's No. 1 R&B/No. 7 pop hit, 1988's "Nite and Day." The song marked the first of five No. 1 R&B singles for the Boston-born singer, including a cameo on Quincy Jones' 1990 R&B chart-topper "The Secret Garden." Sure also claimed three top five R&B albums: 1988's "In Effect Mode" (No. 1), 1990's "Private Times . . . And the Whole 9!" and 1992's "Sexy Versus."
Downsized after a two-year stint as the midday air personality on Clear Channel's R&B oldies station KHHT Los Angeles, Sure also spent the last few years writing and producing recordings by David Bowie, Faith Evans and Usher. He's also signed to William Morris for film and TV projects.
Describing "Honey" as " 'In Effect Mode' on steroids," the silky-voiced singer concentrated on striking the right balance between contemporary and old school. "I'm not Usher or Justin Timberlake," he adds with a laugh. "I'm a 40-year-old man sharing my thoughts on love."