Teena Marie

Wild and Peaceful

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The first album from the second white female signed to a Berry Gordy label was several years in the making. Singled out by Gordy from a band discovered by Hal Davis, Teena Marie -- who, as an eight-year-old, could be seen tap dancing for Jed Clampett in an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies -- signed to Gordy and spent a few years living in the household of Fuller Gordy (Berry's brother) and Winnie Martin (Jill Jones' mother). Recordings were made during this period, but nothing materialized until Rick James entered the picture. An immediately enamored James, along with his Stone City Band and fellow producer Art Stewart, helped Marie create Wild and Peaceful, an album that deserved more success but nevertheless established the singer's role in R&B's post-disco era. Formatted with three extroverted tracks on the first side and an equal number of introverted numbers on the flip, the album is a remarkable debut, even if it only hints at how far Marie's ambitions and skills would take her. "I'm a Sucker for Your Love," a free-spirited slice of disco-funk that propels bright sounds all over the place, put Marie in the Top Ten of the Black Singles chart for the first time. While not released as a single, the subdued but lavish "Turnin' Me On" indicated that Marie could seduce as easily as Chaka Khan or Patti Austin, just two of the inspirations who had suddenly become contemporaries. On the second side's "Déjà Vu (I've Been Here Before)," she reveals her deep indebtedness to Minnie Riperton, vocally and lyrically resembling adventurous-mystical songs like "Take a Little Trip" and "Close Your Eyes and Remember." (Fittingly enough, Riperton's husband, Richard Rudolph, would produce Marie's next album.) Closing the album on a heartbroken note, "I Can't Love Anymore" leaves a strong aftereffect and reminds that James, known to most as a sleazy superfreak above all else, could also write a classic Motown ballad. When the album was released, listeners had no image to go on and assumed Marie was black.

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