"I recently lent someone the copy of "Union" that I had long owned, and he lost it, and I was in a panic that it might be hard to find the CD this many years after its release. And that panic made me want to tell people: If you never discovered "Union" more than a decade ago, when it was released, latch onto it now. Toni Childs was putting African chants and influences into sturdy pop/rock before it became the vogue, and her voice -- a deep howl from the heart -- is as idiosyncratic as Nina Simone's or Macy Gray's but three times as powerful. Her career went downhill from here, but it really had nowhere else to go; that's the nature of starting at the summit. And when you first give "Union" a whirl, don't be put off by the top-40, dance-track ordinariness of "Don't Walk Away," the first single; that was the album's clear bid for radio play. Fast forward to "Zimbabwe," which is majestic, or "Stop your Fussin'" or "Dreamer" and you'll wonder, as other reviewers noted, why this album isn't considered a classic. By those who know it, it is."
An Intense and Satisfying Celebration
dev1 | Baltimore | 03/11/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The first thing that will grab your attention on "Union" is Toni Childs' distinctive voice. She's part soul crooner (reminds me of Simply Red's Mick "Red" Hucknall) and part gospel singer. Although comprehendible, Childs phrases her words for effect. Proper diction is secondary to musical expression. She concentrates her energetic delivery on texture and tone.The African rhythms and choruses on "Stop Your Fussin," "Let The Rain Come Down," Zimbabwe" and "Hush" are as immense as Childs' vocals. She has enlisted a bevy of angelic African ladies to sing harmony and build powerful choral arrangements."Union" is a collaboration between Toni Childs and David Ricketts. David is half of David & David who gave us the infectious 1987 "Welcome To The Boomtown" ("Tim Drum" may very well be an outtake from the "Boomtown" sessions). "Don't Walk Away" opens "Union" with Childs (in the spirit of Tina Turner) scolding her lover. She forcefully rebukes him again on "Stop Your Fussin." Childs also has a softer introspective side. "Walk And Talk Like Angels Talk" is a tale of self-discovery, and "Where's The Ocean" expresses a longing for the past.I'll venture that "Union" is a celebration of the personal and profession relationship of Toni Childs and David Ricketts. It must be an intense and satisfying partnership because "Union" is both."
An Overlooked Classic.
Jason Stein | San Diego, CA United States | 03/17/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought Union in February of 1989. I remembered that a few months back my high school drama teacher had mentioned that he had bought Toni Childs and that the cd was very good. I forgot about that conversation and a few months later saw the video for "Don't Walk Away." I went out and bought myself the cd. I was 16 at the time and I'm 27 now. I still think this is a classic recording. Nine songs that effortlessly flow. Every single track is a gem. The emotional rawness is present in all the tracks (kind of like Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill). It's a shame that no one even knows who Toni Childs is. Union and 1991's House of Hope are classics. I wouldn't recommend 1994's Woman's Boat unless you are a dedicated fan. Union is a must have for any rock collector."
Remembering 'Union' & an update on Toni Childs
Aaron Davy | New Zealand | 08/26/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a wildly under-rated and under-appreciated album. I have been constantly surprised that this album has not made it on to any music industry must-have lists. Even though 'Union' was released in 1988 it has retained a timelessness that I think increasingly marks it as an original classic. Nothing else sounded like it when it was released, and its hard to think of anything that has come close to 'Union's sense of late 80's capitalist-revolt, and hippy-revival (God, wasn't that short lived!). 'Union' is a near perfect statement about the remembrance of love-lost and the comfort of idealistic belief. It is a cry for activism and out-reach, while suggesting the tending of individual emotional well being... and yes, it is a little 'hokey' in places. But as long as you are not scared of anything that suggests 'feral hippies' then 'Union' belongs in any serious music collector's catalogue, while Toni Childs herself deserves far more respect and exposure than she has been afforded at this point by the music industry.
Admittedly there are one or two tracks on 'Union' which are now sounding a little dated, especially the opening 80's rock thumper 'Don't Walk Away', complete with responding trumpet chorus. But, even this track still manages to portray a sense of perfection and immediacy which will endear itself to anyone who knows the confusion of denial and rage that exists when someone walks out on them. (If you managed to find a copy of the extended mix of this track, it is well worth it!). This track is also somewhat disjointed from the rest of the album, which as a whole still remains incredibly consistent.
Much has been said of Union's use of African beats and other World Music influences, especially on 'Let The Rain Come Down' and 'Zimbabwe'. This is certainly apparent, but what is also obvious is that Toni Child's makes imaginative use of her already unique voice throughout the album. There are lots of non-verbal sounds that rise out of her throat and just seem so perfectly communicative.
Toni Childs' music really sold well in New Zealand & Australia than perhaps it ever has in the States. However, it should be noted that Toni Childs has been nominated for music awards numerous times. 'Union' alone received a few Grammy nominations in 1989, and even her critically under-valued 1994 album 'The Woman's Boat' received a Grammy nomination for 'Best Female Vocal'. Furthermore, Toni Child's received an Emmy Award in 2004 for a track she wrote for a television documentary. Otherwise it has been unfortunate that Toni Childs has largely been absence from the music scene since 1994. However, this is all about to change; her new web site states that she has a new album (the first in 12 years) 'Keep The Faith' due for release in the next 6 months. 'Keep The Faith' has also seen Toni Childs re-team with the producers (David Tickle and David Rickells) that created 'Union'. So buy 'Union' from Amazon to see where this amazing artist all began (well, after she provided some back-up vocals on David + David's 1986 album 'Boomtown')... and get ready for her soon to be released new album. "