I’ve talked a lot about my brother’s influence on my music collecting. I haven’t written much about my sisters for a good reason — they never took up collecting music.
I have two sisters, and they each had started buying up a few albums when we were all kids. The sibling rivalry competition had started out as a four-way race, but by the end of the ’70s, both sisters dropped out.
One sister, however, has had an indirect influence on my collecting. She would be the first to cotton to something cool — Duran Duran, Janet Jackson, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam — but she would leave it to my brother or me to bring it into the home.
If she felt strongly enough to buy a physical copy of an album, she would play it for a while, and when she got tired of it, the album ended up in someone else’s collection. It was usually mine because she and my brother didn’t get along.
That’s how I came to inherit Always by Pebbles.
It’s the type of album I wouldn’t be caught dead listening to in high school, which put me in an odd spot since it was released during high school. Since my sister only ever owned a single album or CD at any point in time, it would be housed among my albums since I had the devoted space for it.
In short, both of us forgot it was there on my shelf.
I’ve had numerous opportunities to purge the album from my collection, the first of which was when I moved from Honolulu to Austin in 1997. But it survived each review, even when cash flow got tight. After a few years, I had to admit — I actually liked it.
L.A. Reid and Babyface gave the album a busy, aggressive sound. The singles from the album merited their chart-topping status, and the non-single tracks don’t wear with repeat listenings. It’s a strong album, perhaps a classic among listeners familiar with it.
These days, I study the album for the sound of its synthesizers. The cold analog sound sounds dated, which makes it a perfect document of its time. In fact, that’s probably why the album survived in my collection for so long — it’s so emblematic of a period and a style that it ought to be preserved.
Also, I was subjected to a lot of bad popular music during high school. The fact I’m still listening to this album after 25 years attests to its endurance.