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October 18-24, 2006

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Grown-up Sounds

Boyz II Men's Wanya Morris talks about musical maturity as the famed harmonizers prepare for a concert at Campbell's Heritage Theatre

By Alanna Lee

BELIEVE IT or not, Boyz II Men, the R&B group that made it big in 1991 with its album CooleyHighHarmony, is back on tour and coming to the Heritage Theatre in Campbell on Oct. 20. The Boyz—Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman—are touring to support their newest album, The Remedy, due to be released early next year.

The album consists of two discs, one of entirely new tracks and another of their most popular hits rerecorded. Wanya Morris calls it "Answers to questions instead of questions that need answers." The multiplatinum, Grammy-winning Boyz II Men is reconnecting with fans worldwide while embarking on new business ventures, so it is a lucky break for Wanya Morris to have the time to talk about the trio. (The fourth member, Michael McCary, left in 2003 due to back pain from scoliosis).

Formed in 1989, Boyz II Men has been a group for more than 15 years now. "It's like family; you know everything about them: their laughter, their joy, their pain. It's just a normal way of life," Morris laughs, then continues, "you don't even think about it until someone says, 'You've been a group for 15 years.' And it's not like 'Whoa!' because you don't think about it."

But they certainly didn't expect to be Boyz II Men for 15 years. "We all expected to be singing this long," Morris relates, "but as Boyz II Men? We only dreamt about it."

Maybe if they had known they would still be doing this they would have chosen a more age-appropriate name. Obviously, the name is associated with their fame from five No. 1 pop hits between 1992 and 1997 and sales topping 60 million records, but Morris explained that it was even more than a name associated with fame. "It's more of a definition than a title. With everyman, you maintain your boyish qualities. You may not reach manhood until death."

Lately, the Boyz have toned down their performance pace from their hectic schedule of 10 years ago. Morris remembers, "Years ago, we were doing coliseums, arenas. ... We were doing places with 10,000 to 15,000, 20,000 to 25,000 people."

But now in an effort to reconnect with their fan base, "We've decided to become intimate and play theaters, small intimate venues, occasionally an amphitheater."

Morris attributed this new need to get closer to fans to the fact that they "lay dormant in the United States" while the Boyz were still working on music and picking up fame in other parts of the world.

Recently, they have announced that they will be on a joint business venture with Donald Trump to build a casino in Philadelphia where they will be managing the entertainment aspect of the venture. Needless to say, they've been busy.

The new album, The Remedy, will be released on MSM/Koch Records and includes "beautiful harmonies of Boyz II Men," Morris proclaims.

He adds, "The lyrical content is more mature—there are actual answers," in reference to the maturity the group has grown into over the years.

It is apropos that the album will be released on Valentine's Day, 2007 (a one-disc Japanese version has just been issued), with its ballads and upbeat harmonies. The members of Boyz II Men have been on several different labels over the years since first signing to Motown in the early 1990s. The group haven't discarded their past, though; instead they embrace it on the new album and in performances.

Morris mentions that the Boyz play old favorites as well as "new records, a few "oldies" from "Throwback Vol. I" and some other tunes. It's a well-rounded show."

While their music has become more mature, so has the audience that has followed them over the years. "[Our fan base] hasn't changed. We've been trying to get a hold on our fans, but our concerts show very different fans from what we expect," Morris says. The Boyz, however busy, are always looking to reach out to fans new and old.

Boyz II Men play Friday (Oct. 20) at 8pm at the Heritage Theatre, 1 W. Campbell Ave., Campbell. Tickets are $50. (408.866.2200)

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