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Tuesday Tunes: Spotlight on Teena Marie

teenamarie_beautiful_0When Teena Marie unexpectedly died the day after Christmas in 2010 at the age of 54, the music world mourned a unique talent.

But the music of The Ivory Queen of Soul known for hits such as “Lovergirl” and “Ooo La La La,” gets a new boost thanks to her daughter, Alia Rose, who shepherded the completion of “Beautiful,” Marie’s 14th studio album that was being finished days before her death.

Co-produced by Doug Grigsby, Marie’s longtime musical director and bassist, “Beautiful” is a fitting elegy with few lapses.

In fact, there are several moments on the album where it seems that Marie was prescient about her fate. “The Long Play” is really about sex with the usual obligations of “going all night” and “not stopping until the morning light,” but its intro is downright eerie, with Marie playing the part of a DJ broadcasting on WHEVN, “a heavenly station.”

On the album’s closer, the gorgeous, hymn-like “The Perfect Feeling,” Marie also reflects that, “Time waits for no one, I’m sure,” as sitars flutter lightly in the background.

But reminders of Marie’s passing aside, “Beautiful” is filled with squiggly synthesizers – a hallmark of ‘80s soul – and myriad showcases for her versatile voice. From “Love Starved” to “Maria Bonita,” Marie morphs from sultry balladeer to Latin-inspired seducer, that hint of rasp that made her voice so distinctive adding texture to everything it graces.

Rose makes a few appearances as well, adding a guest rap to “Sweet Tooth” and sharing background duties with Rick James’ daughter, Ty, on “Rare Breed,” a song with a glistening hook that sounds like a more substantial Jennifer Lopez.

While “Carte Blanche” is a bland inclusion among so many firecrackers, its relative dullness is countered by the re-appearance of “Wild Horses” (originally on her 1994 album, “Passion Play” and none the worse for wear) and a funky cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Give Me Your Love.”

This really might be the last we hear of Marie – discounting the repackaged hits products that will keep her legacy alive for future generations – so at least fans can have satisfactory closure.

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By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

22 comments Add your comment

CK

January 15th, 2013
5:24 am

Yesterday Justin Timberlake, today Teena Marie, in a column about music? Really?

HP

January 15th, 2013
8:00 am

One of the more unique voices in music. Teena Marie also fought for artists’ rights in the music industry – and WON. Lady T doesn’t get the credit she deserves.

ThirdWheel

January 15th, 2013
8:33 am

Lady T is the bomb! She can blow a lot of people out of the water….Watch your mouth CK!!

Yvonne

January 15th, 2013
9:11 am

Thanks so much for featuring Teena Marie. Teena’s voice cannot and will not be duplicated, it is definitely one of a kind and one that will NEVER be forgotten. But her daughter, Aliya Rose, soundgs good too. Personally, her old music is always a favorite of mine, but she is so talented, you cannot help but fall in love with the new as well. I listen to Casanova Brown, Portuegese Love and Happy (w. Rick James) at least once a month.

Melissa

January 15th, 2013
9:14 am

Really?! Comparing Lady T to a no-talent idiot like Timberlake!! CK – get schooled in music, novice.
Melissa

SoulPower

January 15th, 2013
9:39 am

No disrespect, but Lady T had more soul than alot of sisters in the biz! Portuguese Love is a CLASSIC! Miss you Teena.

Tina

January 15th, 2013
9:57 am

Teena left a legacy of incredible music with us. She will always be sorely missed. Square Biz, Portuguese Love, I Need your Lovin… just beautiful timeless hits..

Wyndy

January 15th, 2013
10:21 am

Teena was the bomb. She had her own unique style.She was imitated, but never duplicated..

levelhead

January 15th, 2013
10:31 am

The sad thing is she will never get played on the radio stations here in Atlanta. Maybe on a syndicated show (once) but not in any rotation. Except for my family at WCLK 91.9 where tru soul music lives.

Mike

January 15th, 2013
11:01 am

Teena was ahead of her time, and is missed, the young folks dont know anything about real music.
RIP Teena

Pandora

January 15th, 2013
11:10 am

I love Teena Marie. I have to purchase this album. Yes the vinyl when it comes out. She was a remarkable person.

Robert

January 15th, 2013
11:11 am

Interesting point Levelhead about radio time for Teena. For the record, I’m a 51 y/o white male who spent a great deal of time listening to Teena back in the late 70’s and 80’s…and I still do. And the only station I EVER remember hearing her on back then was V-103. V-103 would NEVER play her now and KISS-104 rarely plays her anymore except on their Saturday night program, Blue Lights In The Basement House Party. And she certainly never got any considerable air-time at WCLK. And forget about staions like Star-94 or B-98.5. I ALWAYS put Teena Marie and Phyllis Hyman in the same boat…Two truly fantastic, talented women who died WAY too soon and NEVER got the real recognition they deserved, IMHO. I do appreciate though, that Access Atlanta is “spotlighting” Lady T for us “old-timers” who have great memories of her songs. How about Phyllis next time AA?

levelhead

January 15th, 2013
11:39 am

I say this Robert, Call WCLK from 2pm – 6 and request a Tenna song. I am sure Jamal will play a cut on the mood of Congo Square. 404 880-9255

Morris (6am-10am) plays Phyllis in constant rotations. “You know how to love me” you kno / you kno.

Big C

January 15th, 2013
11:41 am

Amen Robert! I will definitely purchase this album. Thank you Melissa!!!

Chell

January 15th, 2013
12:42 pm

@Robert – you nailed it! LOVE both Teena & Phyllis. Will definitely be enjoying this latest cd from Teena.

GaPeachy

January 15th, 2013
12:45 pm

Will def check this out, Portuguese Love is one of my fav songs of all time. Great voice! RIP Lady T!

atlnative

January 15th, 2013
2:30 pm

Teena Marie was probably the most underappreciated musical artist of her generation. She was edgy ,sensual,romantic,and bold,with a terrific vocal talent. “Portuguese Love”and “Out on a Limb”,are two of the most remarkable arrangements during that time period.

neelabea

January 15th, 2013
3:58 pm

Love both Teena and Phyllis – Two Beautiful Ladies of Song! My most wonderful and happy times are spent listening to their songs and the uniqueness of their voices! May God Rest your Souls. You will always be remembered.

Brave Bird

January 15th, 2013
6:09 pm

Teena’s album is so BEAUTIFUL; pun intended. Her voice is just as good as it was in the 80’s. She really took good care of her instrument. This woman WROTE, ARRANGED, PRODUCED, and PLAYED instruments on every song she made. It is a disgrace that Beyonce has 16 Grammy’s and Teena doesn’t have one. She is a beautiful song who truly wrote some hauntingly beautiful songs and AMAZING lyrics (Out on A Limb; Casanova Brown). I love how Teena makes so many subtle references to her past songs on this album; just listen attentively. Phyllis is dear to my heart. I’m 26 and I was a kid when she passed; I didn’t get into PH until 2003 when I heard a clip of her song The Answer Is You in a movie called Set It Off. It was brief but I had to know WHO WAS THAT? If you can get your hands on a copy of her authorized biography THE STRENGTH OF A WOMAN please read it! I found a copy at my local library and I’m probably going to hell for this but that copy was reported “lost” if you catch my drift. Both ladies were a blessing to music and left here so soon.

Robert

January 15th, 2013
7:21 pm

Thanks Levelhead for letting me know that ‘CLK is playing both of my favorite women of song. Admittedly, I’m not listening nearly as much as I used to…especially between 6 and 10 am. But I’ll heed your advice and try to catch Jamal in the afternoon. And another thing Levelhead…Sho you do, you know how to make it right, so nice…LOL Love that you knew about my girl Phyllis. Have enjoyed everyone else’s comments as well.

twitter1

January 16th, 2013
6:08 am

Thanks for the article on Tina, her voice was one of a kind, I think her best collaberation was with “Rick James” on Fire and Desire”, she nailed that song and no one can touch it, RIP Tina.

chocolate child

January 16th, 2013
9:32 am

Melissa thank you so much for posting this! And oh my gosh, Teena and Phyllis?! I could listen to them ALL DAY!!! Both ladies were not only great entertainers and storytellers but also wonderful VOCALISTS which is something that we just don’t hear enough of today. I still keep these ladies in constant rotation and miss them greatly…