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Members include Nicole Nicci Gilbert, vocals; Charmayne Maxee Maxwell, vocals; and Kina Cosper, vocals; Cosper replaced founding member Monica Mimi Dolby, 1995. Addresses: Record company--Epic Records, P.O. Box 4450, New York, NY 10101- 4450.

As legend has it, the three singers who founded the group Brownstone were pounding the pavement in their quest for a record contract when they abruptly found themselves facing a terrifying tryout. At one of their many boardroom auditions in the early 1990s, pop deity and record label exec Michael Jackson casually arrived to hear the session. Although the prospect of performing in front of the "King of Pop" triggered an instant case of the jitters for the members of Brownstone, they persevered. When the trio launched into a stunning a capella number, Jackson declared their heartfelt harmonies extraordinary, and soon they were recording their debut album, From the Bottom Up, for his fledgling MJJ Music label. After the record's release, critics were as equally impressed as Jackson. "This set stands on its own," stated a review in Billboard. "With the trio ... expressing themselves on such flavorful tracks as the enchantingly serene 'Sometimes Dancin,' the soulful rendition of the Eagles classic 'I Can't Tell You Why,' the inspirational 'Don't Cry For Me,' and the hip-hop/G-funk-influenced 'Pass the Lovin.'"

The record, which included a variety of producers, was released in January 1995. It went gold and spawned the hit single "If You Love Me," which climbed to the pop Top 10 and reached No. 2 on the R&B chart. The follow-up single, "Grapevyne," also cracked the R&B Top 10. Brownstone was suddenly in demand. They joined Boyz II Men on a sold-out U.S. tour, performed with Patti LaBelle, Anita Baker, Maze, and Blackstreet. In addition to performing with these renowned stars, Brownstone appeared on The Soul Train Music Awards, The Lady of Soul Awards, and the BET network's Video Soul. In January 1996, "If You Love Me" received a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.

Brownstone was founded by twenty-something singers Nicole Nicci Gilbert, Charmayne Maxee Maxwell, and Monica Mimi Dolby. They came together in Los Angeles, where each had come in search of a music career: Dolby from New Orleans; Gilbert from Detroit; and Maxwell from Guyana. "The threesome began singing together after seeing each other perform at a seemingly endless series of auditions," Essence magazine reported in 1995. "There was instant chemistry. Vocally, we had a really strong blend that sounded good," Dolby told the magazine. "We picked our name because brown is the earth and stone is solid." Gilbert has said that shared sense of strength and stability also inhabited the friendship between these three women. "Together," she told Essence reporter D.G. "We have a strong foundation and act as a unit."

As it turned out, however, that foundation was not enough to keep the threesome intact. Dolby left the group in 1995, reportedly for health reasons. She was replaced by Detroiter Kina Cosper, a college friend of Gilbert's. Cosper acknowledged the pressure she faced in joining the already successful combo. As a new member, "fitting in with the group was a challenge," she admitted in the band's Epic Records biography. "I was nervous when we first started recording the new album. But I'm very excited about how it turned out." She was not the only one feeling the pressure, however, as the realigned trio began recording their second record in mid-1996. "We had to get over the sophomore jitters," Gilbert explained in the Epic bio. "It was really important for us to realize that our job was not to try and outdo the first record, but to make an album of songs from the heart."

They need not have worried. The album, Still Climbing, was released in June 1997 and became another critical and popular success for Brownstone. "In these days of sisters with sound-alike voices, Brownstone is one of the few female R&B groups with a distinct vocal style," Jeremy Helligar wrote in People. "Their swaying, three-part harmonies build, build, build, then soar into what could pass for a full choir. Unlike many of their counterparts, who seem too attached to mechanical, mid-tempo beats, Brownstone nails the emotional bull's-eye with their torchy, slow rhythm & blues." Helligar went on to say that Still Climbing was reminiscent of the late-70s heyday of singing groups like the Emotions and the Jones Girls, when R&B albums offered groups more than a good excuse to flounce about in fancy videos.

On Still Climbing, the groupcontinued to work with a variety of writers and producers and again managed to create an album which was both eclectic and cohesive. The record displayed a seamless consistency derived from the threesome's hands-on approach and special touch. Of the 12 tracks on Still Climbing, for example, eight were written or co-written by the three group members. Meanwhile, MJJ Music and its partner, Epic Records did their part by launching a strong promotional campaign that pushed Still Climbing to retailers, radio stations, and video networks. Brownstone promoted the record during a European tour, then joined singer Keith Sweat for a series of concerts in the United States.

"We didn't necessarily set out in a different direction (on the second record) but we've grown more," Gilbert told Billboard's J.R. Reynolds. "One of the things that we re most recognized for is our singing ability, and with the addition of Kina, there's a new energy with {Still Climbing} just like when we were recording the first album." The first single released from Still Climbing, an R&B standout called "Five Miles to Empty," received solid airplay and reached the R&B Top 10. The video for the song was aired on VH1, the Box, and BET. Gilbert has suggested that, despite Brownstone's lineup change, the new album picked up where the group left off with From the Bottom Up. "It shows our vocal and creative growth," she proclaimed in the Epic bio. "And I think it shows that, if we stay focused, we can take this all the way and be one of the best girl groups around." Many listeners would say they've already reached that plateau.

by Dave Wilkins

Brownstone's Career

Band formed in Los Angeles, California, early 1990s; released debut album, From the Bottom Up, on Michael Jackson s MJJ Music label, 1995; followed with Still Climbing, 1997.

Famous Works

Further Reading

Sources

Brownstone Lyrics

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Visitor Comments Add a comment…

almost 3 years ago

Where are you guys!!!! There is a need for you right now. The girl r&b groups in the 90's were awesome! Mokenstef, Jade, 3-5-7, s.w.v., changing faces and of course u guys:)

almost 3 years ago

Where are you????????? we need you in the music industry right now!!! U guys were EPIC and are truly missed in this industry.. I heart you guys.. When will there be a new album???

almost 5 years ago

Unbelievable is the only description that can be applied to Brownstones' performance on stage and in the studio. Possibly the best group of all time. What other group could deliver so much in the time they performed?

about 5 years ago

I came across your cd, From the Bottom Up, today & forgot how much I enjoyed it. You don't find groups like Brownstone any more! When you go back on tour, please make Colorado one of your stops.

about 5 years ago

Well said Lady P. I couldn't agree more.

over 5 years ago

i really do miss thta soulful hasrmanizing....i'm listerning to them om 102.3 KJLH right know..."If you love me" wow it's bringing back so many old memories...Hey Maxee u remember the fedco days?????? I was reading the Bio of the group and never realized you were from Africa wow..life is really amaziong when you start to understand it ...Well I hope all the ladies in the group is well and happy and thinking about singing again....it would be nice.. ("";harpredtongue;")

over 5 years ago

All i know is this...Brownstone needs to reappear somewhere...We need the soulfulness back...everything is bullshit....

almost 6 years ago

No meu conceito,um dos maiores grupos de R&B já formado.As vozes dessas cantoras alegra a alma ex; 5 miles empty,you give good love, grapevyne,dont cry for me.Pena o grupo se desfez, e somente uma dessas cantoras maravilhosas segue carreira solo, pelo que estou imformado.Bom seria se o grupo retornasse novamente a encantar nossos ouvidos,mas o importante e que deixaram sua historia na black music

over 6 years ago

i already have Major Problems with the so called "record Industry"..shamely it's become a..Joke...like it's cousin the Motion Picture industry..but nuff said.. Brownstone...the Record Industry should be ashame of itself for "Losing you"..I'm Not a Christina but..as The Number "Christian " said..Please forgive them for they know not what they Do"..good luck in the Future "Brownstone"..YO uwill ALWAYS be STARS...you do not need ot be a "Slave" to something lost in the Aybss..

over 6 years ago

Before recording for Michael Jackson's label, did this group record a gospel album with a song entitled: "Since He Came Into My Life"? I have been looking for the album with this song reportedly sung by Brownstone back in either 1993 or 1994. Can you help.. Thank you, Vincent

over 6 years ago

Brownstone - We Must Be In Love

over 6 years ago

Brownstone is by far the best girl group EVER !!! I am a fan for life

over 6 years ago

I am an extreamly big fan of yours and I wish you would hurry up and release a new album. Peggy Lopez