I love this album for two reasons. First off, it’s probably Luther’s best album1. I still get goose bumps every time I hear the opening sequence to “Bad Boy/Having A Party” (sing it with me – “Ahh Yeah… scooboody, dooboody, dee dee…”). It’s amazing what Luther and frequent collaborator Marcus Miller did with this Sam Cooke track; it doesn’t sound anything like the original. Luther does another masterful cover of the Temptations “Since I Last My Baby”. Continue reading “My Favorite Albums: Forever, For Always, For Love”
“Shadow Boxing”, like “Cassanova Brown” (number 4 on the countdown) is off the Robbery album; but where “Cassanova…” is headache and heartache, “Shadow Boxing” is full of hope and love (with a bit of infatuation and sexiness). Teena sings of waking from a night with her lover. She sounds happy; she sounds in love.
But it’s not the subject that makes this song number 1 on my list. What truly sets “Shadow Boxing” apart from every other Teen Marie recording is that this song perfectly showcases all of Teena Marie’s talents. It is, quite simply, a faultless, flawless marriage of lyrics, instrumentation, and vocals.
Irons In The Fire is where we really start to hear the ‘Teena Marie’ sound that’s prevalent in so many of her ballads: that ‘sound’ being alternating themes (usually a time or chord change) with an A B A or A B A B structure. The ‘A’ section is traditionally the ‘standard’ R&B sound, with the ‘B’ component introducing a jazz, rock, Latin, or Broadway theme.
Teena previously stated that Irons In The Fire was her favorite album; that makes sense, given that Irons… was the first album that she produced by herself. She also penned all the songs on the album (with the exception of “Tune In Tomorrow”, which she co-wrote with Mickey Hearn). Her hard work shows: Irons In The Fire was easily her strongest album to date, with jams like “Young Love”, “I Need Your Lovin’”, and the smoking “You Make Love Like Springtime”.
However, those tracks can’t hold a candle to the previously-mentioned “Tune In Tomorrow”. Teena captures her audience right from the start, with an almost incomprehensible “wow” before sauntering into her first verse:
“Now That I Have You” is the only Teena Marie song that I wish she never recorded. That’s because this song was originally penned for the great Minnie Riperton. Unfortunately, Minnie died in 1979 of breast cancer; Richard Rudolph (her husband) gave it to Teena a year later when he helped to produce the Lady T album.
Because the track wasn’t written by Teena Marie (as are the others on the countdown), “Now That I Have You” doesn’t have the distinctive sound of a Teena Marie ballad. That’s actually a good thing; even with Teena strong, soulful voice, I can ‘hear’ Minnie singing this song.
That’s not to say that Teena doesn’t make it her own; at the 3:30 mark something kicks in, and she takes control of the song. Her vamp of the chorus foreshadows what we would here on her next albums – Irons In The Fire and Robbery.
I have a story about “[Cassanova] Brown.”Back in the day in New Orleans, the leading R&B station (FM98 WYLD) used to hold an annual talent show at the Saenger Theater. The talent was usually good, if not overwhelming, although there were usually one or two singers or dancers who you could tell were destined for brighter lights and bigger stages. The same as any major talent show, I guess. Anyhow, I was there this one year when a young lady took the stage and, without accompaniment, began to sing the following:My baby’s fine
He always keeps me guessing
But never keeps me guessing
About his love
The place went nuts. There were people screaming and yelling, falling out of their seats, waving their hands in the air — all kinds of foolishness. You would’ve thought it was ten in the morning on a Sunday and we were at church. The thing is, the girl didn’t actually sing the song all that well. If I remember correctly, she did a decent job — that is, she made it all the way through without getting booed off the stage. The place wasn’t going crazy for her. They were going crazy for the song. Teena Marie’s song.