Wednesday, January 16, 2013

ADD 003

Several overdue reissues and the archival First Class Love were released within a couple years of Teena Marie's passing. A bigger surprise came in January 2013, when UMe issued this, the artist's 14th and final studio album. Its recording had been completed prior to Lady T's death; proud daughter Alia Rose, a singer and MC who appeared on La DoñaSapphire, and Congo Square, saw it through the mixing and mastering process. As Teena did on those fine 2000s albums, she weaves her exceptional songwriting skills with instrumentation that is both organic and synthetic, complementing her own playing and programming with input from several longtime instrumentalists. Likewise, she celebrates her inspirations in explicit and subtle fashions. The first song and lead single, "Luv Letter," pays tribute to her Motown roots and cleverly references her daughter's father with nods to "Please Mr. Postman" and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours." A Curtis Mayfield cover, "Give Me Your Love," one of two songs featuringAlia, glistens and most resembles the Barbara Mason version. Elsewhere, Teena quotes Barry White andthe Stylistics, as well as herself, and even references A Tribe Called Quest. She does this while remaining utterly contemporary, as if modern R&B production moved her, as if revisiting her classic past sounds was never considered. There's a wide range of material, but the plush and yearning ballads -- "Love Starved," "The Long Play," "Carte Blanche," and the "Shadow Boxing"-alluding "Definition of Down" -- resonate the most. No other artist combined such strong streetwise attitude with disarming warmth. She did it from start to finish.

No comments: