How different was the era that John Morales came up in and in large part created, dominated and defined? A few years back I interviewed someone who’s released more than 200 remixes and told me he’d never been in the same room with an artist he remixed and hadn’t even spoken to most of them. That says a lot about technology, but also about the isolation and even alienation of music production in the modern age. What was once a collaborative art by necessity is now reduced to something similar to writing — a pair of eyes and disembodied hands waving in the dark, glowing in the white light of a monitor.
John Morales on the other hand worked in the hallowed halls of those great East Coast studios, developing intense relationships with several signature artists of the disco era. It’s impossible to think of the M+M Mixes without also thinking of Jocelyn Brown (and probably vice versa). And while there’s been a bit of a revival into the work of the late songstress Teena Marie in the last few years, John Morales arguably knows her best, and it’s a labor of love in full sight of the world on Love Songs & Funky Beats, the new 18 track compilation from BBE Music.
Morales says he set out to “immerse” listeners in Teena Marie’s music, both an introduction and a deep dive. Lady T’s greatest hit, “Lovergirl,” is not present, nor is her #1 R&B charting “Ooh La La La” (and to be truthful it’s hard to imagine anything new that could be done there) but many of the other hits are, as well as lesser known singles and even album cuts. Teena Marie had one pinkie toe hanging on to the ’70s in the form of her first single “I’m a Sucker for Love” which featured a (then uncredited) vocal from Rick James. A live version recorded in 1981 was included on a deluxe edition of James’ seminal Street Songs album, and that’s what Morales works with here. Morales’ remix of “Behind the Groove” is a triumph, pulling out the confident and raunchy post-disco sound of what should be regarded as a landmark in modern music history. You can almost HEAR the ’70s and ’80s collide on this track, and in Teena Marie’s vocal, with a groove composed of pure, unadulterated raunch shaking lewdly beneath a big brassy sax.
Of the singles Morales takes several from that lovely Lady T album (produced by Richard Rudolph, widower of Minnie Riperton and which featured the debut performance of their 7 year old daughter, future actress Maya Rudolph). While Morales is identified in our parts of the land as a premiere disco technician, his experience in working in all genres of music pays off here on some of Teena’s curvy pop songs like “Love Just Wouldn’t Be Right” and the power ballad “Portuguese Love.”
“People know she was talented,” Morales says, but “I don’t think they really knew the depth of her abilities, her complete confidence to take it upon herself to do everything — singing, producing, arranging, songwriting. Teena Marie was the total package.” And this is a delightful re-wrap of it, if one is allowed to put it this way.
John Morales presents Teena Marie: Love Songs & Funky Beats (BBE Music / March 26 2021 / Vinyl/Double CD/Digital)
1. Teena Marie: I Need Your Lovin’ (John Morales M+M Mix) (09:11)
2. Teena Marie: It Must Be Magic (John Morales M+M Mix) (07:44)
3. Teena Marie: Aladdin’s Lamp (John Morales M+M Mix) (06:42)
4. Teena Marie: First Class Love (John Morales M+M Mix) (06:33)
5. Teena Marie: Now That I Have You (John Morales M+M Mix) (07:20)
6. Teena Marie: I’m a Sucker for Your Love (Live in Long Beach, Ca 1981: Alternate Mix / John Morales M+M Mix) (08:56)
7. Teena Marie: Behind the Groove (John Morales M+M Mix) (08:34)
8. Teena Marie: Love Just Wouldn’t Be Right (John Morales M+M Mix) (04:46)
9. Teena Marie: Portuguese Love (John Morales M+M Mix) (10:34)
10. Teena Marie: Chains (John Morales M+M Mix) (08:35)
11. Teena Marie: 365 (John Morales M+M Mix) (06:14)
12. Teena Marie: Wasn’t I Good to You (John Morales M+M Mix) (04:36)
13. Teena Marie: Square Biz (John Morales M+M Mix) (08:06)
14. Teena Marie: More Love (John Morales M+M Mix) (06:09)
15. Teena Marie: You Got Away (John Morales M+M Mix) (05:52)
16. Teena Marie: You’re All the Boogie I Need (John Morales M+ M Mix) (06:52)
17. Teena Marie: Lonely Desire (John Morales M+ M Mix) (06:08)
18. Teena Marie: Fire and Desire (John Morales M+M Mix) (11:21)
⚪️ Disclosure Statement: This record was submitted as a promo by BBE.