The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Monday, February 13, 1995              TAG: 9502130214
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   85 lines


THUNDER BOOMS. Rain falls. And the endearments begin.

``You're a freak, a sweet freak.''

``I wanna kiss you right there.''

Or more innocently, ``Girl, I want to know your name.''

It's the Quiet Storm, the most romantic hours on the radio. And in Hampton Roads, some of the most popular. The love crowd, it seems, is the biggest crowd around.

``It is, no question, the most listened-to program on this station,'' says WOWI-FM (``103 JAMZ'') program director and general manager Steve Crumbley of the lush, sensual R&B mix. ``It has its own audience. There is a percentage of people, not a large one, but it's definitely there, that doesn't listen to us at any other time. But they look at the time and say, `It's 10 o'clock; it's time for the Storm.' ''

The show runs from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., Monday through Friday. It's hosted by the smooth-voiced Adimu, who replaced veteran Storm deejay Dale Murray last week.

Crumbley says the audience is drawn from all of 103's listeners, young and old. More important, though, is how they use the show.

``If a guy's going out with a young lady, and he's got a limited (record) collection, when they go back to his place and they want to get intimate, you might not pull out your cassettes. You can just turn on the Storm instead.''

So for every Barry White - who, perhaps surprisingly, told The Washington Post, ``Now I don't make love to music. I don't need Barry White or nobody else'' - there are many more men, and women, who tune in.

After all, as even Barry realizes, ``there's some people who like atmosphere, and that's all I am, your humble servant, here to make your evening more pleasurable.''

The Storm began in the '70s, with Melvin Lindsay, a deejay at D.C.'s WHUR-FM.

``What he did,'' Crumbley remembers, ``was, he made a whole show of ballads. He would tell stories with his music. He'd take requests. He would take songs that would fit what the listeners were telling him.''

Among the early Storm hits were two of the most enduring: Earth, Wind & Fire's ``Reasons'' and Heatwave's ``Always and Forever.'' They lead the first of four new albums of ``Smooth Grooves'' compiled by Rhino Records in Los Angeles.

When licensing delays pushed the series' appearance back, the label decided to aim for a Valentine's Day release. ``It was perfect timing,'' says Shannon Williams, urban marketing and A&R manager at Rhino and one of the records' compilers.

``Basically, it was goin' back to high school,'' she says of the ``Grooves'' concept. ``It was what we heard on late-night R&B radio and in clubs. It was a passion project. Everybody wanted to hear these songs together.''

Rhino went for long album and 12-inch single versions of the discs' four dozen songs, which span the late '60s to the '80s.

``That's basically to keep the listener in the mood,'' says Shawmel Garlington, who collaborated with Williams on the track selection.

For ``Reasons,'' they chose the live version from EWF's 1975 ``Gratitude'' LP. It runs more than eight minutes, three longer than the studio cut, and is ``more intense,'' Williams notes.

Crumbley agrees, recalling that despite its popularity, the tune, and several other Storm classics, never came out as a single. ``In some cases,'' he says, ``you can't edit a song to 45 length without taking out what listeners are responding to.''

Respond they do.

``You can play `Reasons' right now, and you still get phones,'' says Crumbley. ``Or you'll get a call saying, `It's our anniversary. Can you play ``Always and Forever''?' ''

Other ``Smooth Grooves'' are likely to retain more interest as objects of camp humor than as musical foreplay. Nearly 12 minutes of ``Float On,'' anyone? Boyz II Men aren't likely to feel threatened when they hear the Floaters intone, ``Aquarius. . .Libra. . . Leo. . . Cancer. . . Ralph. . . Charles. . . Paul. . . Larry.''

Even there, however, is a message that shares room at the heart of the Quiet Storm with Luther Vandross, Anita Baker and the rest:

``Take my hand. Come with me, baby, to Loveland. . . '' ILLUSTRATION: Barry White

[Record jacket]

by CNB