When 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.
By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene