Patrice Rushen ‘You Remind Me: The Classic Elektra Recordings 1978-1984’ 3LP/CD (Strut) 5/5

With ‘Remind Me’, Patrice Rushen’s five album Elektra Records catalogue – which includes ‘Patrice’ (1978), ‘Pizzazz’ (1979), ‘Posh’ (1980), ‘Straight From The Heart’ (1982) and ‘Now’ (1984) – is celebrated for the cherished era-defining and genre-defining soundtrack to the 1980s’ distinct style of R&B and funk-inspired disco that they were.

Even before Patrice Rushen’s revered Elektra partnership had begun, the pianist, vocalist and composer boasted three projects to her name and already solidified herself as an in-demand session musician having appeared on projects by Donald Byrd, Harvey Mason and Eddie Henderson. But while those Elektra recordings introduced Rushen to a more global audience bringing her worldwide recognition and subsequent Grammy nominations, hardcore fans of her first three projects were initially left dumbfounded at the seemingly drastic change of style which saw Rushen move on from the jazz aesthetic established through those albums on Prestige Records.

Even though Rushen’s recordings as far back as her second album for Prestige (‘Before The Dawn’, 1975) had started to embrace the concept of fusion by incorporating different styles into her music, with the early Elektra releases, Rushen had to fight through the accusations of having sold out in a bid to deliver her music to a wider audience and thus achieve more creative freedom with the music she wanted to make.

Thinking back, although the criticism could be argued to be understandable, it still seems surprising that any of the releases presented on this ‘Remind Me’ compilation could have been met with any negativity at all. A collection of classic recordings that have gone on to inspire generations of new artists up to forty years after their initial release with many of these tracks still reintroducing themselves into contemporary markets through covers and samples; Rushen had once claimed to receive approximately thirty requests per week seeking permission for sampling rights of her music, which has already seen countless reinterpretations from artists including Faith Evans, Mary J Blige, Kirk Franklin and Mark Ronson amongst many others.

The fifteen tracks presented here sees each of Rushen’s five (Elektra) albums visited with many of her signature and most known songs included: the lush ‘Settle For My Love’ finds a place, as does several 12-inch mixes of songs like ‘Haven’t You Heard’ and ‘Feels So Real’ which are nice touches. There is also a strong contribution from the album that went on to serve as Patrice Rushen’s biggest project, ‘Straight From The Heart’, with the 12-inch mix of the instrumental gem ‘Number One’ and one of Rushen’s most sampled tracks, the sublime groove of ‘Remind Me’ which was something of a staple within hip-hop in the 1990s. And of course, there is the definitive 1980’s gem of ‘Forget Me Nots’ – the unmistakable bass of Freddie Washington and sax by Gerald Albright culminating in Rushen’s first Grammy nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 1983 – as well as numerous samples and covers most famously by Will Smith for ‘Men in Black’ and George Michael for ‘Fast Love’.

‘Remind Me’ serves as such a fantastic, and somewhat essential, introduction to Patrice Rushen’s music particularly for anyone reading this who may never have purchased a full-length album of her work before. And yes, while songs like ‘Forget Me Nots’ are representative of that glossy 80s-esque soul/disco style, what this compilation also achieves in showcasing is Rushen’s versatility as demonstrated through songs like the aforementioned ‘Settle For My Love’ and others like ‘Music of the Earth’ and the exquisite ‘When I Found You’.

Imran Mirza