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Passion keeps Babyface in the game

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Hit-making producer, performer and songwriter Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds had a not-so-subtle agenda in teaming up with Toni Braxton for the "Love, Marriage & Divorce" album that came out in February.

"The main reason why I wanted to do the album was to kind of get Toni back into wanting to record again and wanting to be an artist and be in music," acknowledges Babyface, 56, who produced Braxton's first hit, "Another Sad Love Song," in 1993. "She was really kind of done with it and frustrated with it all, so I just wanted to give her a reason to kind of want to sing again and said, 'Let's do this together.' "

Released by Motown, "Love, Marriage & Divorce" debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 on the R&B Albums charts in February. But more importantly, Babyface says, "in doing it, I think (Braxton) found her voice again. So to me this is kind of a stepping stone to another great Toni Braxton album. This let her test her wings and know she can fly, and now she's ready to fly again."

Babyface, of course, is in characteristically non-sop motion. He's working on a new album of his own, his first of original material since 2005. He's also co-produced Aretha Franklin's next album and a Barbra Streisand duets album as well as working with developing talent -- recently including Ariana Grande. And he's quietly celebrating the 25th anniversary of both his first solo album, "Tender Lover," and of LaFace Records, the label he founded with former creative partner L.A. Reid that launched the careers of Braxton, TLC, Usher, P!nk, Outkast and many others.

"When you work you just work and the years just kind of go by and you don't really think about the time passing -- especially if you enjoy what you're doing," he notes. "There are moments of pride, though. when you look you might hear songs you've done and some of the artists and where they are at this point in their lives. Our legacy still exists because the music stays alive, not only through ourselves but things we touched and artists that were part of our lives.

"You don't sit there and think about it all the time, but if you do stop and think about it, it's a good feeling."

Toni Braxton and Babyface

8 p.m. Saturday, June 28

Chene Park Amphitheatre, 2600 Atwater St., Detroit

Tickets are $57-$125 pavilion, $42 lawn

Call 313-393-7128 or visit www.cheneparkdetroit.com

Web Site: www.cheneparkdetroit.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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