Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Teena Marie - Starchild

Last month (November 11th) marked the thirtieth anniversary of Starchild, the sixth studio album from Teena Marie. This 1984 release was her best-seller to date, topping off at number 90 in Canada, number 31 on the US Billboard Album chart (with a thirty-five total week run on that chart), and number 9 on the US Billboard R&B chart.

Side one opens with the chart-smashing hit "Lovergirl", a key to album's successful sales. It reached number 76 in the UK, number 13 in Canada, number 9 on the US Billboard R&B chart, number 6 on the US Billboard Dance chart, and number 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100. It has a catchy guitar hook and driving beat that made it a favorite at parties and clubs throughout 1985. I owned a copy of it on 45rpm (with the instrumental version on the B-side) and played it heavily in my rotation when getting ready for a night out dancing. It never fails to put me in a great mood, even three decades later.

The dance groove continues with "Help Youngblood Get to the Freaky Party". It tells of an encounter between a young woman and a smooth operator who tries to entice her with his seductive rap. In the end, she shows him that she can match his rhythmic vocal skills.

"Out on a Limb", the album's third and final single, peaked at number 56 on the US Billboard R&B chart. Teena slows it down on this six plus minute track, showing off her amazing vocal control and range.

With the bouncy beat of "Alibi", Teena catches her cheating lover with lipstick on his collar. It also features a hard-rocking guitar solo near the end.

Side two begins with the upbeat dance track "Jammin'". As the second single, it stalled at number 81 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 45 on the US Billboard R&B chart. The way Teena sings the chorus mimics the sound of a strummed guitar.

The title track "Starchild" also served as the B-side to the third single. It keeps up with the mid-tempo, funky groove set up by the previous track, while going a bit cosmic on the synthesized backing vocals.

"We've Got to Stop (Meeting Like This)" is a beautiful ballad performed as a duet. I have to wonder how this one would have turned out had Teena done it with Rick James, her former Motown label-mate whom she had collaborated with so often in the past.

The ballad "My Dear Mr. Gaye" was written as a tribute to the late singer Marvin Gaye who had been killed earlier that year in April of 1984. I found it a nice touch how the tempo picks up for the latter half in a style reminiscent to Gaye's own signature sound.

The album closes with the brief "Light", a reverent piano-based hymn that clocks in at just over a minute in length.

I picked up Starchild via digital download a number of years back, shortly after Teena Marie's untimely passing. Despite how huge of a fan I am of the opening track, this one has not gotten nearly as much play in my library as some of her other albums. I think this is definitely one that I need to revisit a bit more often.

For more albums featuring Teena Marie, click here.

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