Anita Baker – 1986 – Rapture
OK folks. Here is one that Nikos and I (Trakbuv) have been discussing for a while – the idea to have a few more posts from the 1980s, and a few more of those all-time classics. And one album that always pops out as a united chorus is Anita Baker‘s “Rapture”. And could you really pick a better LP to represent the decade ? This is in Nikos’ Top 5 for the 1980s. Goodness – and you’re willing for me to do the review ? That’s delegation at its most vicious ! Well, I will try and do justice to the importance of this post.
And for those in the know, dust off and relive the experience with me and brother Nikos. And to those of you who haven’t heard of this LP – I hope you come in peace – and welcome to our planet.
A1 Sweet Love 4.26
A2 You Bring Me Joy 4.24
A3 Caught Up In A Rapture 5.07
A4 Been So Long 5.07
B1 Mystery 4.56
B2 No One In The World 4.10
B3 Same Ole Love 4.05
B4 Watch Your Step 4.54
Back in 1983 there was a buzz going around about someone called Anita Baker, but none of the UK deejays had managed to grab a copy of the LP. Then it appeared in the import shops and they couldn’t get it on the turntables quick enough. A few months later I managed to get my own beautiful gatefold copy on import. And playing those first tracks of Side A simply cannot be measured by time or space. And then I had to wait 3 years to hear her grace my speakers again, with “The Songstress” now worn to a wafer. But boy oh boy, was the wait worth the anguished pain. This time every DJ played the whole of “Rapture” over a single weekend – no-one could decide what was the best track, and ended up playing different tracks on different shows – always a rubber stamp of something very special in the offing. And in memory of this monumental event, I will try and break it down track by track.
Lead out with the big guns why don’t you. “Sweet love” is probably the most perfect song for someone of Anita’s incredible vocal stature. Like Al Pacino in the Godfather, she was born to play this part. Anyone even attempting one note of this song is purely making a mockery of themselves. A song that should be heard on every planet in the Universe to understand what the intrinsic power of the human race sounds like !! What must the studio session have felt like after killing it with this take – and what would I give to have been there ?
“You Bring Me Joy” is a song written by blue-eyed soulster David Lasley. To my knowledge, this first appeared on Norman Connors’ “Take It To The Limit” sung by the utterly brilliant Adaritha (another one of my favourite songbirds), although her treatment was poor by her standards. Far more satisfying is David Lasley’s own falsetto workout. But Anita takes this to a whole new level. The production is exceptional and provides the perfect framework for Anita to take your tender heart on a giddying, entrancing swirl on the whirlwind of love. You need to play this several times to really appreciate the genius subtly gracing its majesty.
Probably the most gentle track on display. “Caught Up In A Rapture” has a strong resonance from her “The Songstress” debut, in particular “Will you be mine”, and captures the term ‘wafting beauty’ with utmost ease. And one to sway the ‘wafting beauty’ of your life in the security of your arms and demonstrate how the synchronicity of the movement of two can become one.
Oh my – BIG highlight for me coming up next !! Forget the fact that Anita Baker can out sing anyone out there today. Forget the song being an exceptional showcase for her songwriting skills. It is the thought that this song started from a blank page and Anita turned out a Renoir in just over 5 minutes. Forget the vocal histrionics that cloud our judgement today – the ability to make your own music around the melody is the mark of a true artist. And bless you Anita for making the human voice the match of any other instrument or its master, and so much more !! For me, “Been So Long” is one of her greatest achievements right here.
“Mystery” is the weakest link. It fit quite snuggly on the Rod Temperton-influenced ‘Bodies and Souls’ LP by Manhattan Transfer (containing the wonderful ‘This Independence’ song), but doesn’t feel quite mature enough for an album like this. Having said that, it is of course a very commendable version that far outshines the original. As a side note, I recall George Benson doing a cover of Heatwave’s (and Rod Temperton’s) ‘Star of a story’. I remember thinking “why ?” in this instance too. On this occasion, I felt Quincy Jones had decimated something that was utterly exquisite. But I think I am one of the few people that wishes Rod Temperton had never met Quincy Jones, having been a big admirer of Heatwave from their first promos.
“No One In The World” is another big ballad that she makes totally her own. Imagine say Whitney Houston singing this – as great a singer she is – big booming chorus and those hit you around the head with a sledgehammer pyrotechnics. Now listen to Anita doing the very same thing. For me one is a master – but Anita is the magician ! And it simply ends too soon – which begs the question – had the engineer eaten something disagreeable the night before ?!
And on “Same Ole Love”, we almost break sweat. There is a gorgeous upbeat glow to the affirmation of a lifetime love – and Anita making that bright ball of optimism so tingly tangible. Wonderful.
And as we entered with Anita co-writing “Sweet Love”, we close with another classic from her pen. “Watch Your Step” is another BIG highlight for me. Oh Lordy, Anita – tell it till it bleeds – ‘the way you live your life !’. Testifying so it hurts so much that you wish you were that person changing their ways. Anita – whatever you say – I’m utterly in your power !
The variety and careful choice of songs, the rich and mature productions – these all make this one of the greatest ever recordings. But it is the proud fatherhood of seeing an artist of Anita’s promise find a showcase that perfectly captures the rapture of her god-given talent. So many artists of her stature never have this moment, and I for one was in tears to hear and subsequently see that rare opportunity fulfilled.
Thank you Anita and to everybody that bought this LP and gave the general public a glimpse of real soul and maybe even an epiphany of why it is so important to us.
A gem that every of you should own. Buy your vinyl copy / CD and Cassette!!!
A new year has just started and we’d like to thank you for your support so far. We begin with an amazing album that Trakbuv and I really adore. There will definitely be some changes in our site, as we try to upgrade it and have a new look as well.
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Enjoy and bless yall.