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Robbery

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Album Review

A protracted absence from the studio (a one-year release gap in the '80s was equal to a five-year gap in the early 2000s) caused by a notorious legal dispute with Motown did little to stall Teena Marie's momentum. Robbery, Marie's fifth album and first for Epic, didn't perform nearly as well on the pop chart as 1981's It Must Be Magic, but the devout black following remained, which obviously had no problem with Marie's discreet slipping of a little more rock and Latin jazz into her R&B. Epic wisely let their new acquisition do her thing — it's the first album written completely by Marie, and the gradual development in her sound would pay off tenfold with 1984's crossover hit "Lovergirl." (Meanwhile, Marie's ex-label was nurturing D.O.A. projects like Monalisa Young's Knife and Groove Patrol's Inergy.) So is Robbery merely transitional? Not at all. While directing a rotating cast of support, including but not limited to the Average White Band's Steve Ferrone, go-to Brazilian percussionist Paulinho Da Costa and undervalued keyboard wiz Patrice Rushen, Marie comes up with a set of songs that rivals anything she did for Motown. There's a little bit of everything here. It's varied but focused, however, highlighted by the torrid mid-tempo groove "Midnight Magic," the club hit "Fix It," and a trio of excellent ballads in "Dear Lover," the particularly elegant "Casanova Brown," and one of the finest Minnie Riperton tributes — whether intentional or not — in "Shadow Boxing." Though the album contains some of the then-up-to-date technology that flawed a lot of other albums released in 1983, Marie knew not to go hog-wild with it. [Epic/Legacy's 2005 reissue has excellent sound and adds three bonus tracks: extended mixes of "Playboy" and "Fix It," as well as the instrumental version of "Midnight Magnet." It's a copy-protected disc and won't play on some computers.]

Biography

Born: 05 March 1956 in Santa Monica, CA

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

No white artist sang R&B more convincingly than Teena Marie, whose big, robust vocals were so black-sounding that when she was starting out, some listeners wondered if she was a light-skinned African-American. Marie grew up in west Los Angeles in a neighborhood that was nicknamed "Venice Harlem" because of its heavy black population. The singer/songwriter/producer was in her early twenties when, around 1977, she landed a job at Motown Records. It was at Motown that she met her mentor and paramour-to-be,...
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