Saturday, February 14, 2015

Teena Marie - Lady T

Today (February 14th) marks the thirty fifth anniversary of Lady T, the second studio album from American R&B great Teena Marie. This 1980 release went to number 45 on the US Billboard Album chart (with a twenty-three week total run) and number 18 on the US Billboard R&B chart.

Side one opens with “Behind the Groove”. As the second single, it boogied to number 21 on the US Billboard R&B chart, number 6 in the UK, and number 4 on the US Billboard Dance chart. This six-minute long dance floor sizzler features a funky bass line by Oscar Alston and Marie’s own signature guitar work. It is easy to hear by this one rocked the clubs as the 80’s were beginning. Later releases of this album on CD feature a half dozen remix versions of the track.

Things slow down quickly with the sensual “Now That I Have You”. The synth effects are subtle but effective here, creating a dreamy layer to this nocturnal encounter.

“Lonely Desire” has a very strong disco sound to it, showing that genre still was thriving into the early 80’s. Marie gives it a very gritty touch, with her vocals matching the beat’s own predatory crawl. The horn section punctuates that hunger as well.

“Aladdin’s Lamp” is a soulful reminiscence of a young love and a wishful desire to bring that magic back again. The change-up of tempo from the verses to the chorus is unexpected but creative.

Side two begins with “You’re All the Boogie I Need”, the B-side to the second single. Since this was before my club going days (I was only fifteen at the time this album came out), I have to imagine that club deejays would spin this one as well as it has a solid dance beat to it.

Things slow down a bit with the next track. “Can It Be Love”, the first single, floundered at number 57 on the US Billboard R&B chart. From this album, this would not have been my first choice for a single either; while good it just lacks the punch that singles need to succeed.

“Young Girl in Love” was co-written by Marie and Jill Jones, the latter who had been a backing vocalist for both Marie and Prince before becoming a headlining act in her own right. This one pulsates with the lustful passions of a teenaged girl’s raging hormones.

The mid-tempo “Why Did I Have to Fall in Love With You” has a bit of a jazz vibe to its melodies. Marie even riffs vocally with extended syllables and oscillating runs.

The album closes with lovely piano-based “Too Many Colors (Tee’s Interlude)”, which was also the B-side to the first single. The lyrics long for an ending of racial bias. The child voice featured at the end is seven year old Maya Rudolph, daughter the album’s producer Richard Rudolph and Minnie Riperton; Maya would grow up to be a cast member of Saturday Night Live and a comedy film actress.

As noted, I was still in high school when this album came out (finishing up my freshman year). Since it did not have a lot of crossover to the pop charts, it sort of missed my music radar at the time. I purchased Lady T back in 2011 when I was back-filling my library with Teena Marie’s catalog. I enjoy her, from the early days like this one throughout her career. In my book, she is definitely one of the classic female R&B artists that more folks need to check out.

For more from Teena Marie, click here.

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