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Soul Express Album of the Month

June 2004


La Dona (US Cash Money, 2004)

1) La Doņa-Intro 2) I'm Still in Love 3) Honey Call 4) Baby I'm Your Firend 5) My Body's Hungry 6) A Rose by Any Other Name 7) Off the Chain 8) Makavelli Never Lied 9) Revelations 3: 8 Introduction 10) Recycle Hate to Love 11) The Mackin' Game 12) I Love Him Too 13) I Got You 14) Hit Me Where I Live 15) High Yellow Girl 16) Black Rain 17) I'm on Fire

Teena Marie's previous album Passion Play was in my personal top 20 albums of 1994, and her latest release La Dona (US Cash Money 2552) will definitely be in the very top of my personal favourite list of 2004. In fact, I would argue that La Dona is Teena's best ever album and also one of the most soulful sets ever released by white artists. And let's not forget that Teena also writes and produces her music.

After the aforementioned Passion Play CD, Teena had already recorded an album Black Rain, which was never issued, but some of the best tracks from that album see daylight here. Not all tracks, though, and the tracks that were left out included a duet with Bobby Womack. The lighter side is that some of the real jewels like the title track Black Rain and I Love Him Too are now finally officially published.

Black Rain is certainly one of the cream cuts of all year in 2004 - or if it isn't in the top 5 of this year, we're going to have a truly marvellous soul year. Black Rain is a divine jazz-flavoured ballad boasting a splendid horn arrangement by James Allen, and especially Tyrone Griffen on trumpet and Steve Baxter on trombone deserve a special mention, while Teena is really in her element in this superlative setting. A future classic.

Other cuts in an admirable musical setting include the atmospheric closing ballad I'm on Fire and the stylish flute and sax-flavoured uptempo swayer Hit Me Where I Live, whereas High Yellow Girl is an impressive mid-pacer with some tasteful real instrumentation, too.

Another real killer cut originally recorded for the Black Rain album is I Love Him Too, a duet with De De O'Neal. The composition is an instant soul classic that simply demands a deeply soulful reading, and Teena certainly doesn't let us down - on the contrary, she and De De perform a blissful duet here. De De is a competent backing singer whose own voice has a nice Southern soul colour.

Another classic duet ballad is a track titled A Rose by Any Other Name, on which Gerald Levert sings in a much more spirited and down-to-earth soulful way than on his own albums recently. This track has, like the major part of the CD, a strong R&B flavour, and the CD has been a great commercial success (at the time of writing this, late June, peaking at a number 3 position on Billboard's R&B album chart), but this time it doesn't mean that the soulfulness of the album would have been sacrificed.

Thus, even the most R&B inclined cuts on offer here are quite soulful, and there's no need to use the skip button of your CD player at any time. Instead, yours truly found himself pressing repeat button more than once while playing this album, and this CD will definitely be one of the most played ones this summer in this household.
-Ismo Tenkanen
Soul Express, editor

Albums of the Month in 2003
Albums of the Month in 2002
Albums of the Month in 2001
Albums of the Month in 2000
Albums of the Month in 1999
Albums of the Month in 1998
Albums of the Month in 1997

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