Saturday, May 14, 2016

Teena Marie - It Must Be Magic

Today (May 14th) marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of It Must Be Magic, the fourth studio album and final one on the Motown label for Teena Marie. This 1981 release spent twenty-five weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 23. It also went all the way to number 2 on the US Billboard R&B Album chart. Besides vocals and keyboards, she also produced this record and wrote most of the tracks too.

Side one begins with the title track. "It Must Be Magic", the second single, rose to number 30 on the US Billboard R&B chart. After a opening fanfare, it slips into a very funky dance groove about a woman who has fallen under the spell of love.

"Revolution" opens with a piano-backed plea to end war before exploding it a powerful socially conscious jam.

"Where's California" harkens back to the Motown girl groups of the 70's. Her beautiful vocals ring out on this sweeping ballad.

The mid-tempo "365" expresses an undying love and devotion.

"Opus III (Does Anybody Care)" was the B-side to the first single. At just a minute and a half in length, Marie's emotional vocals are backed by a simple string arrangement and bookended by the sound of waves crashing on a beach.

Side two starts off with "Square Biz", a track co-written by Marie and bassist/keyboardist Allen McGrier. As the lead single, it went to number 50 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 12 on the US Billboard Dance chart, and number 3 on the US Billboard R&B chart. The album features an over six minute extended version of the song, giving us dancers plenty of time to work it out. In her breakdown rap, she even name-checks her previous three albums in order of release. I owned this single of this back in the day, and it is easily my favorite cut on the album.

"The Ballad of Cradle Rob and Me" was co-written by Marie and Jill Jones (who was a backup singer for Marie and Prince and later a recording artist in her own right). It was released as the B-side to the third single. This song about an older man and an inexperienced young woman has a jazz-blues swing to its rhythm that I like a lot.

The third single "Portuguese Love" peaked at number 54 on the US Billboard R&B chart. The album version clocks in at over seven and a half minutes, and it features a bit of a throwback Latin pacing to it.

The B-side to the second single as well as the album closer was "Yes Indeed". Once again we get a beautiful piano ballad that showcases Marie's amazing and underrated vocals.

The 2002 Expanded edition CD included three more tracks. First was an instrumental version of "Square Biz". Next up were "Someday We'll All Be Free" (a cover of a 1973 Donny Hathaway song) and "Deja Vu" (written by Rick James), two live recordings from a Long Beach, California, concert.

About six years ago, just after Teena Marie's tragic death, I added It Must Be Magic to my music library. This was definitely an album I would have played the heck out of back in the 1980's had I owned it.

For more from Teena Marie, click here.

1 comment:

HERC said...

"Square Biz"! nuff said.