Mint Condition still creating hits after 24 years

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MINT CONDITION (Photo by Nathan Santos)

 

PITTSBURGH–Pittsburgh fans will be in for a musical treat when R& B band Mint Condition takes the Benedum Center Stage for a Mother’s Day concert that will truly be fit for queens.

The band will be performing with friend and fellow R& B crooner Charlie Wilson for the Charlie Wilson Live & in Concert Tour on Sunday, May 12 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $43 and can be purchased by visiting http://www.trustarts.org or calling 412-456-6666.

The concert is being hosted by the North Side Coalition for Fair Housing, which according to its web site, engages in activities that ensure and improve the availability and accessibility of low-income and affordable housing in the North Side communities while improving the lives of families.

Proceeds from the concert will benefit the sixth annual Women’s Walk for Peace.
The Women’s Walk for Peace is a two-mile walk held in September that begins at the Pittsburgh Project on N. Charles Street and ends at West Park near the National Aviary.

Members of Mint Condition met as teenagers at Central High School in St. Paul. They were rightly influenced by the blazing music scene of the time period which was saturated by tight funk and R& B groups like The Tyme, The Replacements, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Soul Asylum and Prince.

A show at the First Avenue club in 1989 caught the attention of super duo Jam & Lewis and led to the band being signed to Perspective Records. Their debut album, “Meant to be Mint,” made Mint Condition a household name with their first single “Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes).” That hit was followed up by a string of classic love songs like “Forever in Your Eyes,”  “U Send Me Swingin,” “Someone To Love,” What Kind of Man Would I Be,” “You Don’t Have to Hurt No More,” and “So Fine.”

Songs that cut to the heart of a female is what has garnered Mint Condition a devout following of fans.  Current members of the band are: lead singer Stokely Williams, Keyboardist Lawrence El, bassist Ricky Kinchen, Jef Allen, Larry Waddell and Homer O’Dell.

“We’ve focused on staying true to what we do. Our music gives the people insight into who we are. There is a vulnerability that comes across in the music and people embrace that, whether it’s joy, love or pain,” explained the band members.

After Perspective Records folded, Mint Condition signed with Elektra and continued to deliver mega hits like “If You Love Me” and “Is This Pain Our Pleasure.”

In the early 2000’s, the band took a five-year hiatus from recording and touring. They returned to the music scene in 2005 as a quintet, with keyboardist Keri Lewis absent. Lewis decided to work on his then-marriage to songbird Toni Braxton.

Mint Condition released “Living the Luxury Brown” album on their own Caged Bird label and had a hit with “I’m Ready.” From there they released “Live At The 9:30  Club” and in 2008 “E-Life,” which gave fans the hit “Nothing Left to Say.”

2011 was a quintessential year for the band that keeps on going. Mint Condition  was selected as the house band on TV One’s “Way Black When” program and appeared on Prince’s “Welcome 2 America Tour.”

“In many ways Prince continues to be a mentor to us,” said Keyboardist Lawrence EL. “He’s a musical genius yet he is never condescending. He has a way of making you feel he’s your biggest fan—we certainly are his! He’s the best. Watching him perform always sends you back to the shed; you know you still have work to do.”

Mint Condition’s newest effort, “Music @ The Speed of Life” was released on Shanachie Entertainment on Sept.11, 2012. The album showcases the band’s quest to create timeless hits and push their music to the next level. The album’s lead single “Believe in Us” proves that.

“With all the choices that people have out there, we have to keep our music fresh and keep it coming often,” the band said. “We’re headed in the right direction. It’s kind of strange to say this after two decades but we feel it’s our time now. We’ve paid a lot of dues, been schooled in the business and honed our craft. We’ve gone to the puppet show and seen the strings!”

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