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Music

CJ Anthony
CJ Anthony with portrait of his father, the late George Tankard. Photos by Ralph Stewart

Local musician back on-stage

By Julian Wise - January 5, 2006

CJ Anthony is home-grown talent with a national span. The R+B singer's resume includes national tours and hit singles on Billboard's charts, yet his roots are firmly planted in Vineyard soil. His up-coming record release party at the Atlantic Connection in Oak Bluffs this Saturday night will mark his return to the music arena after an extended departure, yet the advance tracks from his upcoming CD "I Let Heaven Go" suggest that he's returning with all of his signature hooks and vocal talents intact.

The last name "Anthony" is a stand-in for Tankard, his bona-fide surname. His parents are Carrie and the late George Tankard, with whom he moved to the Island from New Jersey in 1967 at the age of eight. His vocal and dancing talents earned him a slot as a dancer in Carly Simon's "My New Boyfriend" video and in the late 1980s he followed a friend's advice and sent a demo tape to a producer at K.M.A. records in Los Angeles. The producer, Ronnie Vann, was impressed enough to send Mr. Tankard a plane ticket to Los Angeles, and before long he began a musical adventure that's landed him among the premier talent in the industry. He sang on Vanessa Williams's gold-selling "Right Stuff" album, co-wrote the #1 R+B hit "Games" with Chuckii Booker, sang and toured with the Tony Rich project, and recorded his own album "Love's Invitation" on K.M.A. records (which yielded the hit single, "You are my Starship.") His television appearances included Jay Leno, David Letterman, BET, and VH1.

Carrie Tankard and her son, musician CJ Anthony. Photo by Ralph Stewart
Carrie Tankard and her son, musician CJ Anthony.
In recent years Mr. Tankard took an extended leave from the music business to attend to family matters. Now, in collaboration with recording engineer John Jannis (Grape Escape Music) and musical collaborator Darron Williams, Mr. Tankard is back in the game.

"It's nerve-wracking and scary, but I'm excited," he says. "I appreciate all the love and respect I'm getting from Islanders."

John Jannis says the album has been recorded over the past 2 1/2 years, with painstaking attention paid to the production details.

"It wasn't just a quick 'let's get it done' album," he says. "It was done slowly with a lot of foresight. I'm absolutely thrilled with how it worked out. It's beautiful. It's real music.

"I Let Heaven Go" is a collection of mid-tempo R+B ballads crafted with lush pop production values and a smooth vocal delivery. Mr. Anthony's voice slides easily from baritone to falsetto in a style that draws favorable comparisons to Luther Vandross and Babyface. "Can I Be" is a song about fatherly love that features his daughter's voice on an answering machine saying "Happy Father's Day, daddy." "All I know" explores opening up and love after romantic disillusionment. While many songs are ballads, "Runnin' Back To You" picks up the tempo with a funk-pop groove.

Mr. Tankard looks back on his previous years in the business with a clear, unfazed eye. "In this business, it's who you know, not what you can do," he says. "People don't care about you as a person, they care about what they think you will become or what they can make off you financially. People outside the business think you're automatically rich, when a lot of the times you're not."

Despite the cut-throat nature of the music industry, Mr. Anthony says his love of singing and music keeps him involved. He predicts the CD release party will be a festive evening of music and friendship. His wish for the CD is that people will recognize common human experiences in the songs.

"I hope they find something that inspires them in as many songs as possible," he says, "because it's about the different emotions of people, the different life experiences.

CJ Anthony CD release party Saturday, Jan. 7 at the Atlantic Connection, Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs, 10 pm, no cover charge.

Julian Wise is a frequent contributor to The Times, specializing in music, film, and the performing arts.