John Morales presents Teena Marie ‘Love Songs & Funky Beats-Remixed With Loving Devotion’ 3LP/2CD (BBE Music) 4/5

Back in 1979, Teena Marie released her debut album ‘Wild and Peaceful’ for Motown’s subsidiary label Gordy alongside Rick James and his Stone City Band. In Minneapolis a few years later Sheila E joined up with Prince on his Paisley Park label. Both singers had acquired a particularly unique sound and collaboration that was creating attention and deserved recognition within the soul/R&B community. Teena Marie was not a perfect fit for Motown and yet there’s was something idiosyncratic and unforgettable about her artistry that Berry Gordy noticed. After a brief stint with the band Ozone, Rick James became the spark that helped launch Teena Marie’s career in the right direction with the hit song ‘I’m Just A Sucker For Your Love’.

A stream of memorable successful tracks including the ever-popular ‘Portuguese Love’, ‘Square Biz’, ‘It Must Be Magic’, ‘I Need Your Lovin’ and ‘Behind the Groove’, all carrying the distinctive driving force of Teena Marie’s distinctive soprano sound. Her fourth album ‘It Must Be Magic’ became her first Gold record which led to greater success and popularity in the subsequent years with her more commercial recordings for Epic Records. It’s those early albums on Gordy plus rare tracks that are the feature of this fitting tribute by John Morales and the BBE label. Legendary New York DJ John Morales gained an early reputation for re-edits and extended mixes long before digital means were around. He is one of the most important figures of the early years of pre-house studio work and a true originator of the extended mix, remix and re-edit idea. The precise splicing on reel-to-reel tapes to edit out and extend the length of records was a true art and a great way of shaping a dancefloor.

Returning to BBE Music, John Morales brings a special selection of reworked and updated tracks from Teena Marie’s important contribution to soul music with some of his personal favourites and lesser-known gems, subtly updated and reworked for this special double CD and triple album release. ‘Love Songs & Funky Beats’ explores a fascinating angle of the singer’s career.

‘Aladdin’s Lamp’ and ‘Now That I Have You’ air memories of Anita Baker and Minnie Ripperton and it’s no surprise that Richard Randolph was behind the production of these two tracks and the 1980 album ‘Lady T’. He wrote songs for his late wife Minnie Ripperton on her renowned 1974 album ‘Perfect Angel’. As well as the early classics from the four albums for Gordy, a couple of tracks feature Teena Marie’s collaboration with the highly esteemed singer-songwriter Ronnie McNeir, including the rare mid-tempo cut ‘You Got Away’.

This superb documentation of Lady T’s immense talent is lovingly captured by John Morales’ studio ingenuity, which creates a newly updated freshness to the original recordings without obviously losing any of the essences of the original recordings. As to be expected the release arrives with a high quality of packaging and sound quality to be expected from the BBE label. Highly recommended.

Mark Jones