SUMMER ALBUM ROUNDUP : TEENA: NO CROSSOVER
“EMERALD CITY.” Teena Marie. Epic. Count on Teena Marie to avoid the predictable path. Her 1984 hit single “Lovergirl” formally--and finally --introduced this blue-eyed soul singer to a pop audience after years of residence on the urban/black charts. The straight-ahead commerciality of that tune was a bit different for Marie. Most of her sexy, spiritual, spritely and often overwritten work of the past must have been too tough for the typical pop palate to digest.
This album contains no daughter-of-"Lovergirl” cuts, no obvious bids for crossover favor. The first voice you hear in the album’s opener, “Emerald,” belongs to funky, blissed-out Bootsy Collins on a song that has Marie, a believer in reincarnation, describing herself as having green skin--since she’s been all the other colors of the rainbow in her past lives. On paper, that may sound lame. On vinyl, Marie makes it jump.
Side 1 is where all the fun is, ranging from the driving “Once Is Not Enough,” on which Marie affects oh-so-proper British tones (pseudo British accents are very “in” on the black/urban charts these days), to the boastful bebop of “Lips to Find You,” on which her pen goes into frantic overdrive: “Crystal blue persuasion in your dreams the spice / Will find you chilly killy in your bed at night.” It doesn’t make sense , but you can dance to it.
Side 2 closes on the bluesy urgency of “You So Heavy,” a cut that’s further enlivened by Stevie Ray Vaughan’s searing guitar solo. Marie might not have the inclination to travel the safe and heavily populated trail favored by artists seeking as broad--and bland--a pop audience as possible. But she’s got the musical smarts to capture any audience she chooses.