New Edition 

New Edition Hits (Geffen)

Underestimate Ralph Tresvant at your peril. Though he was the last member of New Edition to put out a solo album, Tresvant proved himself when his debut, Ralph Tresvant, blowed up large. Holla. That platinum record's hit single, "Sensitivity," rose all the way to the top of the Billboard charts in 1990 and stands among the most courageous paeans to the silky-smoove brotherman ever recorded.

But the single was merely a full-bodied extension of Tresvant's work with the seminal boy band New Edition. Despite former band member Ronnie DeVoe's humbling, unintentionally comedic stint as a RE/MAX real estate agent in Atlanta, the group has managed to put out a new collection of past hits and, upon further review, Tresvant emerges as the band's most crucial member, rising above his more famous NE mates, Bobby Brown and Johnny Gill. Consider this line from NE's best-known hit, "Cool It Now": "Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky and Mike, if I love a girl, who cares who you like?" Exactly. Then there's the chorus of "Count Me Out," a sleeper hit that rose to no. 2 on the R&B charts in 1985: "You'll have to count me out/I wanna be with my girlfriend."

While Tresvant undoubtedly poured his heart into such lyrics, the man inside is not truly revealed until one takes a gander at this telling passage in Nelson George's Cool It Now: The Authorized Biography of New Edition: "Ralph is a strong-willed Taurus who loves basketball, Pontiac Z2Ss, lollipops, bacon and eggs with cheese (no ketchup) for breakfast, the movie Gremlins, dirt-bike racing and the style of Morris Day."

Beneath a wimpy sheen, you see, Ralphie-T had the sack to say, "Hey suckers, the ladies are number one in my life." Is there any question, then, that it is Ralphie-T who single-handedly inspired the prose of Onion columnist Smoove B? Want proof? Feast your eyes on this excerpt from Smoove's latest column, dated March 10, 2004: "I will refill your crystal wineglass with only the finest wine known to the South American regions. You will never need to touch the bottle, unless you want to look at the drawing on the label. Did I mention that Ralph Tresvant will be playing on the stereo during dinner? He will be. This is a promise."

Finally, Ralph Tresvant gets his due, justification enough for this enjoyably kitschy but otherwise expendable collection of Jackson 5 knockoffs.

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