Teena Marie

Lady T

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For the recording of her follow-up to Wild and Peaceful, Teena Marie linked with songwriter and producer Richard Rudolph, who had just lost his wife and musical collaborator, the great Minnie Riperton, to breast cancer. Lady T smoothly picks up where Teena’s Rick James-produced debut left off. It’s also something like an organic extension of Riperton’s final proper album, Minnie, also released in 1979; Rudolph co-write one-third of the songs and brought in some of Riperton’s studio associates, including Jerry Hey's Seawind Horns. Though Teena’s creative identity was established on the debut, Riperton’s spirit flows throughout the album. Ironically, it’s the wholly-Teena-penned “Aladdin’s Lamp” that most resembles Riperton, from the wistful, romantic lyrics to the vocal arrangement, weaving background “ba-ba-ba”s and “la-la-la”s that recall the supernatural singer's early work with Rotary Connection. It’s among a few songs here that one could easily imagine being sung by Riperton. There were only two charting singles: the minor hit “Can It Be Love,” a gentle ballad, and the Top Five club single “Behind the Groove,” a smacking disco-funk jam. Even so, some of the deeper album cuts, especially “Now That I Have You” -- all dreamy, blissed-out acoustic soul -- rival the best of Wild and Peaceful. The album’s presentation, including a glamorous shot on the front and a tomboy shot on the back, strikingly contrasts with that of the mysterious debut. For those who had not caught Teena’s 1979 Soul Train performance, it must have come as a shock to see this sleeve and realize that the music was flowing out of a white body. In more ways than one, Teena had fully arrived, and she struck again in a matter of six months.

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