"Teena Marie's 1986 album "Emerald City" caused critics and fans alike to scratch their heads in confusion. The Teena of yesteryear, the Rick James protoge, the soulful powerhouse behind heart-on-your-sleeve balladry like "Dear Lover" seemed to have taken a vacation with the release of "Emerald City." Here was a Teena Marie that whipped her voice around the driving funk of "Lips To Find U," who head-banged with the conviction of a hard rock singer on "You So Heavy," who evoked images of a torch singer of days gone by with "Sunny Skies." "Emerald City," featuring a poem chronicling the emotions of a character, "Pity," through the theros of being misunderstood, (not to mention the dark cover image of Teena and guitar surrounded by an eerie green backdrop), both hinted that this album was going to be something else. And that it was. While not as commercially successful as previous work, "Emerald City" featured "The Ivory Queen of Soul" making an album that, as she has said in interviews, was for herself. The music, a bit dependent on mid-80's synth production, does sound a little dated. Even so, what makes these cuts memorable is the way Teena sings them: with conviction, with sass, with style. As she wraps her vocals around the atmospheric, hypnotic "Shangri-La," or scats her way through the delicious lyricism of "Sunny Skies," Teena Marie deftly showcases her musical tastes and excelles in each genre she shares with the listener. "Batucada Suite," a breathless romp into Latin music and African percussion, features Teena evoking the musical heritages of many lands, at last proclaiming "Jesus music is Heaven-sent, to remind us of what has went." (This just goes to show that Teena's knack for wordplay coupled with intense musicality still remains her biggest strength). As Teena writes her own lyrics, she can get away with such word puzzles, not to mention that her writing far outshines the "baby I love you" same-ness of her contemporaries. As a whole, the album runs the gamut of Marie's musical influences, ranging from the psychadelic-stylings of the title track, to the familiar funk of "Once Is Not Enough" and "Lips To Find U," to the brooding surprise of "You So Heavy," to the Spanish-style of "Batucada Suite," to what is arguably Teena's biggest musical strength, the jazz ballad "Sunny Skies," which is lyrically brilliant and features saxaphone work by Bradford Marsalias. Though underrated, this is an album worth listening to, not once (you'll think it's wierd) but over and over (you'll find it to be a creative, inspired musical journey through one of soul music's most talented interpreters). Intense, surprising, soulful, and inspired: "Emerald City" showcases Teena Marie's far-reaching musical scope, illustrating that she was and remains an artist in the true sense of the word."
"Listen to the rhythm of my soul"
Thomas R. Carley Jr. | gresham, oregon United States | 08/28/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Without a doubt, Teena has always been an overlooked genius. She is the evidence of the trouble of trying to compete against your own hit single. When "Lovergirl" was being overkilled on the radio, people were overlooking other great songs of hers. "Emerald City" was the follow up album after "Starchild". And on this album, she threw out the disco, and turned to plain old Rock.
And on parts of this album she is almost metal sounding. And what is not known by most of the general public, is not only does Teena Marie write, produce, and sing all her own songs, but, most of the music is played by one person, Teena. She is for the most part a one woman band. Let me tell you my five favorites on "Emerald City", in order. 1)"Lips To Find You." The song to listen while you are in the backseat of your car with your lover. 2)"You So Heavy". Pure Teena Marie magic. One of the great guitar solos near the end of this song awaits you. 3)"Shangri-La". Blast this one and you will understand the power of "Shangri-La". This song builds to a great climax. 4)"Sunny Skies". At just over 7 minutes, this song is a jazzy song for romantics that brings out Teena's unique vocal style. 5)"Love Me Down Easy". If you are a drum lover, this is your song. One day, I hope she gets the respect she has sorely been denied by the music industry. Untill then, her hard core fans will still be there for her."
A good solid effort
firstname.lastname@example.org | usa | 03/18/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Lady T has always been bad.This Disc reflects her many sides.Teena Marie is a strong writer,arranger,Producer,instrumentalist,&Damn she can Sing.she deserves more props.she has always come correct.Lips To Find you was tight.she is a musical Genius to me and very Prolific."
Avant Garde At It's Best
Timothy A. Dillinger | Nashville, TN United States | 10/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"At the time that Teena recorded this album, she had already covered a huge musical landscape. Each album up to that point had made it's own statement, clearly representing the versatility that rests within Teena Marie. "Emerald City", to many, seemed to have come from out of nowhere, but it is perhaps Teena's greatest celebration of the many influences who made her the artist that she is.
"Emerald City" carries a strong rock influence (particularly in the first four cuts), but it is blended with funk and salsa rhythms, truly creating it's own unique brew. The first four tracks take the listener on the journey through the Milky Way of Teena's mind. Lyrically, she once again melds the sensual and the spiritual (as her hero Marvin Gaye did so well) and explores the trechery and glory of love ("Call on me I'm your passifier/when you need some company/Sister can't fly on one wing/so just give her what she needs/You make me feel like drifting through my golden years/Thoughts of you go to my head/You turn me on/oh you're so heavy")
The last half of the album is an incredible set in which Teena displays the heavy influence that Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield had on her work. "Shangri-la" and "Love Me Down Easy" are lyrical reminders of Curtis Mayfield's "The Makings of You" and "I'm So Proud", respectively...but in a Star Trek universe. "Batucada Suite" and "Sunny Skies" are direct descendents of Stevie Wonder's "Superwoman". "Sunny Skies" and "Love Me Down Easy" are easily two of Teena's best performances to this day...
So, I said all of that to say, that if you are a true appreciator of good music..and want to get schooled to it's origins, this is an album essential to your collection. It doesn't come any purer than Teena Marie.
(And as with each of Teena's albums, don't over look the poem in the liner notes!)"