Monday, June 27, 2016

Teena Marie - Emerald City

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of Emerald City, the seventh studio album from Teena Marie. This 1986 record spent eleven weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, where it peaked at number 81. It also reached number 20 on the US Billboard R&B chart.

Side one begins with the title track. "Emerald City" is backed by a funky groove and tells the tale of a woman looking for a wild time. It definitely signals that with this record we're no longer in Kansas; Teena is going to take us in a different direction.

The dance beats continue with the pounding drum machine percussion of "Once Is Not Enough". Its unrelenting onslaught mirrors the hunger of the lyrical heroine's passion. She needs to add more hours, days and months just to have ample time for the loving of her man. Marie shows off her guitar playing chops on a solo here.

"Lips to Find You", the first single, went to number 28 on the US Billboard R&B chart. I find this was an odd choice. Though it has a strong beat, for me one of the first two songs would have grabbed my attention more quickly.

"You So Heavy" features a guitar solo by the blues great Stevie Ray Vaughan. Marie even clips her vocal delivery to mirror the thick, ominous rhythm on the verses.

Side two starts with "Shangri-La". For me, the melody spirals as if someone is trying to find an oasis amidst a storm of the senses.

"Batucada Suite" changes things up a bit, thanks to the inclusion of a steel-drum percussion. Batucada refers to a style of African-influenced Brazilian percussion with a fast pace and a repetitive pattern.

The second single "Love Me Down Easy" peaked at number 76 on the US Billboard R&B chart. Again, the choice for a single doesn't sit strongly with me. Of the eight tracks on the album, this one would be near the bottom of ranking.

The closing track is "Sunny Skies". I always like these slower numbers with minimal arrangements that allow Marie's powerful voice to paint the picture so eloquently. At the midway point, the tune evolves into a jazz jam session that features Stanley Clarke on bass.

I did not find my way to Emerald City until after Teena Marie's passing in December of 2010. I added this record to my library around the same time I was filling in with others from her discography. Of course, upon first listen I realized what I had missing for decades.

For more from Teena Marie, click here.

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