Teena Marie - Irons in the Fire – Teena Marie (Gordy/Motown – 1980)by A. Scott Galloway (Special to Radio Facts ) “I have been colored in and faded out. My hand she quivers and yet my pen still writes. ‘If life is death and peace is wrath – or if you feel I have chosen to embark on a most precocious path - let me be the judge of my own cessation, for I am the only one who knows just how far or fast I go…’” Independence Day had arrived along the sparkling shores of Venice…Venice, California that is. It was a hot summers day of sunny skies, crystal blue persuasion and salt songs - misting and ascending to the Most High. A home spun Vanilla Child was on the brink of shaking the chains that had not so much bound her but disciplined her – reigned her in to teach her a thing or three – for her level of excellence in the realm of songcraft was nothing short of sweet bitter destiny. She was born Mary Christine Brockert but she took “Teena Marie” as her nom de plume. And when she was really feeling herself, she butterflied into “Lady Tee.” The latter is clearly who was possessing her 5”1’ frame when she raised up the baton to conduct her first self-produced symphony: her third LP, Irons in the Fire. BUY TEENA MARIE MUSIC ON iTunes When she arrived at Motown’s Sunset Boulevard offices in Hollywood by bus from beach town, she was a lump of clay…a young White girl in love with the rainbow of music all around her: Musicals, Rock, Jazz, Top 40 Pop and a whole lot of Soul. The world-wise veterans at Motown could see there was plenty within her to work with. It would be a combination of Tee’s tenacity and some empathetic in-house hearts that slowly began to piece her puzzle together. Motown Founder and Chairman Berry Gordy was among the first to take her under his wing, producing an early 8-song demo session. She was also ushered in and out of the doors of several lesser-known producers such as Kenny Kerner, Richie Wise, and Winston Monesque – each zoning in on the part of Tee they could most relate to but never getting anywhere near the whole picture. Singer/Songwriter/Producer Ronnie McNeir got the closest. Years later, Tee would show her gratitude, bringing him back into the fold on her sixth album, Starchild, on which they sang the duet “We’ve Got to Stop Meeting Like This,” even performing it together on “Soul Train.” But that would be a long ways away. The biggest misstep Motown made was slotting her into the ill-fated sons of Gordy band Apollo. Notoriously, Teena left a session allegedly to run a quick errand and conveniently never returned. BUY TEENA MARIE MUSIC ON iTunes It would be a rowdy upstart, stage name “Rick James,” who would fatefully peek his head into the writing room where Teena was working away, hearing something familiar in her voice and verses that connected to his youth. They were mirror opposite twins – he a Black man who originally wanted to be a folk rocker, dodging the draft, smoking pot, letting his hair grow long and hanging with White dudes that happened to include a young Neil Young and future Steppenwolf member Nick St. Nicholas. She was a White California beach girl, always with a song in her heart and upon her lips, whose “bestest friend named Mickey” (among many) was Black. When reborn Rick got red hot at Motown, fronting his Stone City Band and dropping the coldblooded Punk Funk on they ass via his Come Get It LP (Gordy/Motown – 1978) featuring “You and I” and “Mary Jane,” he was in a plum position to reach back and help another artist of his choosing. “Mack” that he was, Rick chose Teena, and launched her as the producer of her long-awaited debut album, Wild and Peaceful (Gordy/Motown - 1979). It was highlighted by two polar opposite instant classics: the party starter “I’m Just a Sucker for Your Love” and the serenely introspective “Déjà vu (I’ve Been Here Before).” Following a tour where Teena accompanied Rick as a protégé and off and on lover, she switched from the devil incarnate to a perfect angel named Richard Rudolph, a songwriter/producer and soon-to-be publishing magnate who also happened to be the husband of one of Teena’s greatest inspirations, Minnie Riperton, the sensual and unique singer/songwriter who had just succumbed following a courageous battle with breast cancer. The two of them were already acquainted and the timing was perfect for “Dick” to lose himself in the labor of love Teena’s sophomore LP, Lady T (Gordy/Motown – March 1980). Where Rick put the raw sizzle in Teena, Richard polished her with gems such as the funky disco fantasia “Behind the Groove,” the Rufus & Chaka nick “Why Did I Fall in Love with You,” and the Quiet Storm classics “Aladdin’s Lamp” and “Now That I Have You,” the latter a gift originally intended for Minnie. The result was a roundly fine if not spectacular album that was more important for Teena as a close-up look into the finer art of album-making. Beyond a few promotional appearances, she did not tour. Instead, she was granted her wings to produce her third LP, the appropriately titled Irons in the Fire (Gordy/Motown – Late Summer 1980) - among her finest. BUY TEENA MARIE MUSIC ON iTunes Key to the magic of Irons in the Fire was a close-knit group of studio conspirators made up of musician friends that Teena implicitly trusted, including members of a veteran band called Ozone. Their tightness would serve Teena well not only creatively but in getting the project done in the timely fashion execs demanded. Drama queen to the max, Teena opens her magnum opus with a moment that is all about that bass…bassist Allen McGrier running the voodoo down on a melodic bottom line to which Gregory Hargrove answers with some teasing guitar before the whole thing erupts with a second rhythm guitar by Wali Ali and a Paul Riser string arrangement for the Gods, christened with what would become one of Teena’s vocal signatures: a resounding “Whoooooooo” that translated as “…and away we go!” That song, “I Need Your Lovin’” is a supremely pocketed, four-on-the-floor, love-funk jam. It grabbed women and men alike with a groove that would not quit plus lyrics penned and sung from a poetic funkstress who had a flair for expressing girl thoughts with young womanly wile…plus tried-and-true spelling hooks. Ray Woodard takes the clean and tasty tenor solo. BUY TEENA MARIE MUSIC ON iTunes Previous ballads such as the jazzy “Déjà vu” (a poem lifted from her diary by Rick who made it a song) and the aforementioned highlights of Lady T paved the way for the luxuriant and nostalgic “Young Love” which laid the dynamic arc template for so much silken Tee balladry to come. With shades of Smokey Robinson rising, Teena sings this one directly to a lover she does not intend to lose. Extremely key are her girls who have her back. Teena’s female backup vocalists and arrangements always rock your world. Teena rarely did solo layered backgrounds on ballads. She brought in an assembly of sisters to lay them, in this case friends Mickey Hearn, Jill Jones (future Prince prodigy) and Shirley Mattison, all joining Teena.
Teena always had a lil’ Rock N’ Roll in her Soul...... which is manifested in the flirty, horn-fueled “First Class Love,” co-arranged with Allen McGrier (gettin’ his Louis Johnson on with his thumbed bass parts and breakdown), a crunchin’ guitar solo, and the percussion of the indispensable Paulinho Da Costa. “First Class Love” dates back to demos originally cut produced by Ronnie McNeir with the Detroit dream team of Ray Parker Jr. on guitar, “Billy Bass” Nelson of Funkadelic on his namesake and Ollie Brown on drums. Ozone gave Tee a funky update that cooked. Side 1 of Irons in the Fire closes with the prophetic and prayerful title track - Teena at the piano with the harp of Lloyd Lindroth and the strings of Paul Riser. Side 2 of Irons in the Fire opens with an attention-arresting courtroom scenario – interestingly a Motown tradition from Shorty Long’s comedic “Here Come the Judge” to Stevie Wonder’s heavy mid-song interlude from “Living for the City.” Teena’s is unique with her layered and looped vocal hook that telegraphs the madness one feels when shackled in a maddening love affair. Then drummer supreme Paul Hines, who cops co-arranging credit here, drops the beat off into an intricate, ice-cold rhythm pattern so oxymoronically hot it could warp yo wax. The rhythm section, the horn section AND the vocal section all get caught up in the feverish, trance-inducing, runaway train of thought of the track, peaking with a blistering synthesizer solo by Michael Boddicker an ancient-future percussion by Paulinho. The vocal bass part is an obvious yet uncredited Melvin Franklin of the Temptations, prominent and name-checked on Teena’s next album, It Must Be Magic. Tracks as sophisticated as this set Teena apart from most female peers. BUY TEENA MARIE MUSIC ON iTunes The same can be said of “You Make Love Like Springtime,” a sexy Brazilian Jazz romp that’s the cat’s meow for slickness. Teena dives head first into that Marvin Gaye yin yang of ‘bomb sex as healing blessing’ she so beautifully describes as “an adventure in the raw, a phantasm for two.” By verse 2, her pen is dripping. Poetry in motion, teach me, Spirit Dove No words need be spoken, I know what you’re dreaming of Like this song I wear your love like Heaven on my breast Rainbow colors all so pure, I feel like I’ve been blessed Up to here, all of “Irons”’ songs are exclusively penned by Teena Marie. The next one would be a collaboration with her dear friend, Mickey “Boyce” Hearn. Entitled “Tune in Tomorrow,” it’s a clever, pure jazz take on the ups and downs of love as like a soap opera in real time – a jazz suite in three tempos. To pull this off authentically, Teena picked a seasoned quartet of musicians: pianist Bobby Lyle, guitarist Wali Ali, drummer Earl Palmer, Sr. and upright bassist James Jameson, Jr. Teena’s adoring indebtedness to Sarah Vaughn (in her delivery of the verses) and Ella Fitzgerald (in the dizzying tempo shifting scatting) is on magnificent display as the instrumentalists serve her exquisitely. “Tune in Tomorrow” made much good on the promise of “I’m Gonna Have My Cake (And Eat It, Too)” back on her debut, Wild and Peaceful, foreshadowing more ever-anticipated Jazz to come. SEE MORE OF A. SCOTT GALLOWAY'S REVIEWS HERE As Teena takes her fiercely earned bow for her inaugural self-production (complete with a warm, inviting cover photo lensed by Ron Slenzak), the finale of Irons in the Fire unfolds - a luxuriant reprise of “Springtime” on which Teena blissfully riffs in vocal ecstasy as Nick Brown goes to town on acoustic guitar with some tasty piano by James S. Stewart, Jr. over a thoroughly warm and lubricated rhythm section. Vinyl victory has rarely been so spicy and sweet. - A. Scott Galloway (The writer dedicates this essay to the memory of dearly departed friend Ms. Teena Marie and all the Cat Daddies and Kittens that make it such a treat to revisit.)
NAT KING COLE CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION BEGINS WITH SPECIAL MUSIC RELEASES
New ‘Ultimate Nat King Cole’ and Limited Edition ‘International Nat King Cole’ - Collections to be Released March 15 by Capitol/UMe - Marvin Gaye’s ‘A Tribute To The Great Nat King Cole’ Album Expanded for - New Digital Edition to be Released March 15 by Motown/UMe
Los Angeles – January 17, 2019 – With the direct participation of the Nat King Cole Estate, and as part of the celebration of the global entertainment legend’s centennial year, Capitol/UMe will release two new collections showcasing Cole’s music on March 15: Ultimate Nat King Cole (CD and digital; 2LP vinyl to follow June 14) and International Nat King Cole (CD). The former includes an exclusive new duet of “The Girl From Ipanema,” pairing Cole’s original vocals with newly recorded vocals by GRAMMY®-winning Blue Note Records artist Gregory Porter, whose much lauded 2018 album tribute to Cole, Nat King Cole and Me, is GRAMMY-nominated this year. On the same date, a newly expanded edition of Marvin Gaye’s 1965 album, A Tribute To The Great Nat King Cole, will be released by Motown/UMe for download purchase and streaming.
The releases are among a host of special events, projects and programs commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nat King Cole, widely acknowledged as one of the most honored and iconic performing and recording artists of all time. Born March 17, 1919 in Montgomery, Alabama, the masterful pianist and vocalist’s initial focus was the jazz idiom, having formed the Nat King Cole Trio while in his 20s. The group was an almost immediate sensation and proved influential to the extent that no less an authority than Count Basie marveled, “Those cats used to read each other’s mind -- it was unbelievable.” Ray Charles inducted Cole into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and readily admitted to Cole’s monumental influence on him.
Cole was signed to Capitol Records in 1943 and The King Cole Trio, his initial album released in 1945 at the dawn of the LP format, topped Billboard’s inaugural album chart. He went on to record nearly 700 songs for Capitol, including 150 singles that charted on Billboard’s Pop, R&B and/or Country charts. That phenomenal success led to Capitol’s iconic round building on Vine Street in Hollywood to be informally known as “The House That Nat Built.”
Ultimate Nat King Cole features 21 tracks, including the aforementioned new duet with Gregory Porter as well as 20 classic Nat King Cole hits and favorites, including “Unforgettable,” “Mona Lisa,” “Straighten Up And Fly Right,” “L-O-V-E,” “The Very Thought Of You,” “Stardust,” and “Nature Boy.”
International Nat King Cole is exclusively available for preorder from uDiscoverMusic.com. The limited-edition CD presents 14 beguiling songs Cole recorded in languages other than English at Capitol Studios in August 1964, including “L-O-V-E” in French, German, Japanese, Spanish, and Italian; “Muetterlein” (“Answer Me, My Love”) in German; and “Autumn Leaves” in French and Japanese. Ultimate Nat King Cole and International Nat King Cole both include newly-written essays by actor and award-winning writer James Ritz.
Nat King Cole’s huge influence is evident in the new expanded edition of Marvin Gaye’s A Tribute To The Great Nat King Cole. In addition to album’s original mono mix, which is making its digital debut, the new edition features more than a dozen bonus tracks, including six alternate takes from the studio sessions.
Along with his trailblazing musical career, Cole is recognized for his contributions to the struggle for civil rights and racial equality. His efforts were done in his own unique style. In 1946, Cole broadcast a 15-minute national radio program, “King Cole Trio Time,” the first of its kind to be hosted by an African American musician. In 1956, he also became the first major African American entertainer to host his own national network TV show. NBC’s “Nat King Cole Show” aired weekly from November 1956 to December 1957, the cancelation of which was caused by a paucity of sponsors since marketers were afraid to offend white viewers with a program hosted by an African American. Cole also appeared in several films, including his top-billed portrayal of W.C. Handy in 1958’s St. Louis Blues and his final big screen star turn as Shouter / Sunrise Kid in 1965’s Cat Ballou.
In 1948, Cole purchased a house for his family in the all-white Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. The Ku Klux Klan burned a cross on the family’s front lawn, and members of the neighborhood’s property owners association told Cole they did not want any "undesirables" moving into the neighborhood. Cole responded, "Neither do I. And if I see anybody undesirable coming in here, I'll be the first to complain." He helped overturn the 1920s Los Angeles statute that had kept the neighborhood segregated. The KKK targeted Cole and struck again in 1956 when Klansmen rushed the stage and beat Cole at a concert performance in Birmingham, Alabama. He would never perform in the south again.
In 1959, Cole won the GRAMMY Award for Best Performance by a "Top 40" Artist for “Midnight Flyer.” In 1963, he was honored with a Special Achievement Award from the Golden Globes.
Cole’s final album, L-O-V-E, was recorded in December 1964 and released in January 1965, just before his untimely death on February 15 at the age of 45. The album reached No. 4 on the Billboard albums chart. At the time, it was reported that Capitol Records had sold more than nine million Nat King Cole records. From “Mona Lisa” to “Unforgettable,” Nat King Cole’s songs are incomparable; it is difficult to contemplate a holiday season without the warmth of Cole’s evergreen rendition of “The Christmas Song.”
In 1990, Cole was posthumously awarded the Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award. He has four recordings in the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame: "The Christmas Song" (1946), "Nature Boy" (1948), "Mona Lisa" (1950), and "Unforgettable" (1951). Cole’s 1944 hit, “Straighten Up And Fly Right,” and the Jazz at the Philharmonic album series in which he is a featured artist have been selected for preservation by the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry, which honors "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" American recordings.
In 1991, Cole’s daughter Natalie Cole released Unforgettable: With Love, featuring her virtual duet of “Unforgettable” with her father. The album topped charts around the world and won the coveted Album Of The Year GRAMMY Award. Just three years thereafter, the U.S. Postal Service issued a Nat King Cole commemorative stamp in its "Legends of American Music" series. In 2000, Nat King Cole was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Established in 2008 by his twin daughters Timolin and Casey Cole, Nat King Cole Generation Hope honors the legacy of their father and mother, Maria Cole. The 501(c)(3) organization dedicates their resources to build sustainable music programs for schools across the United States.
Interest in Nat King Cole’s story continues to grow as each new generation discovers his music, as well as his trailblazing, catalytic role in several important cultural and sociopolitical advancements, including the U.S. civil rights movement. The arc of Cole’s life is a study in success despite adversity, and the triumph of civility, respect and talent married with political, cultural and business savvy.
Ultimate Nat King Cole [CD; digital; 2LP vinyl]
- (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66
- Straighten Up And Fly Right
- (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons
- Sweet Lorraine
- Walkin' My Baby Back Home
- Mona Lisa
- Quizas, Quizas, Quizas (Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps)
- Love Me As Though There Were No Tomorrow
- Orange Colored Sky
- When I Fall In Love
- The Very Thought Of You
- Let There Be Love
- Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days Of Summer
- Nature Boy
- The Girl From Ipanema (with Gregory Porter)
International Nat King Cole [CD]
- L-O-V-E (French Version)
- Les Feuilles Mortes (Autumn Leaves / French Version)
- Crois-Moi Ca Durera (You’ll See / French Version)
- Le Bonheur C'est Quand On S'aime
- Vous Qui Passez Sans Me Voir (Passing By / French Version)
- L-O-V-E (German Version)
- Muetterlein (Answer Me, My Love / German Version)
- L-O-V-E (Japanese Version)
- I Don't Want To Be Hurt Anymore (Japanese Version)
- Kareha (Autumn Leaves / Japanese Version)
- L-O-V-E (Spanish Version)
- Tu Eres Tan Amable
- L-O-V-E (Italian Version)
- Tu Sei Cosi Amabile
Marvin Gaye: A Tribute To The Great Nat King Cole (Expanded Edition) [digital]
- I Wish You Love
- If I Had To Go
- So In Love
- The End Of A Love Affair
- The More I See You
- Violets For Your Furs
- You're All That Matter To Me
- Nature Boy / original mono LP mix
- Ramblin' Rose / original mono LP mix
- Too Young / original mono LP mix
- Pretend / original mono LP mix
- Straighten Up and Fly Right / original mono LP mix
- Mona Lisa / original mono LP mix
- Unforgettable / original mono LP mix
- To the Ends of the Earth / original mono LP mix
- Sweet Lorraine / original mono LP mix
- It's Only a Paper Moon / original mono LP mix
- Send for Me / original mono LP mix
- Calypso Blues / original mono LP mix
- Unforgettable / original California version, take 2
- Send for Me / original California version, take 1
- Send for Me / original California version, take 3
- Ramblin' Rose / alternate vocal
- Too Young / alternate vocal, take 1
- Send for Me / alternate vocal, take 1
The Temptations' 'Cloud Nine' Album Reissued By Motown/UMe In Limited Color Vinyl Edition
"'Cloud Nine' and 'Run Away Child, Running Wild' not only work as pop protest but bear witness to how funky these smoothies have become." – Robert ChristgauThe album is not all psychedelic soul, however, with "Hey Girl" and "Don't Let Him Take Your Love From Me" strongly showcasing The Temptations' classic harmonies, aural depth, and unvarnished feeling. "Don't Let Him Take Your Love From Me" had been previously recorded by Jimmy Ruffin, while "Hey Girl" was originally a Top 10 ballad in 1963 for Freddie Scott. The Temptations' first new album in eight years, All The Time, was released May 4, 2018 by UMe. Praised by the Associated Press for its "musical magic," the album features the legendary group's inspired renditions of songs by Sam Smith, Bruno Mars, John Mayer, Maxwell, Ed Sheeran, Michael Jackson, and The Weeknd, and three new, original Temptations songs. Following this year's acclaimed, sold-out engagements in Washington, Los Angeles, and Toronto, the electrifying Temptations musical, Ain't Too Proud—The Life and Times of The Temptations, will open on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre on March 21, 2019, following previews that begin February 28. Presented by the most recent recipient of the MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant," playwright Dominique Morisseau, Olivier Award-winning choreographer Sergio Trujillo, and two-time Tony Award-winning director Des McAnuff, Ain't Too Proud explores the group's extraordinary journey from the streets of Detroit to Motown fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.