Patrice Rushen - Remind Me: The Classic Elektra Recordings 1978-1984 (Advance Review)

Patrice Rushen
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Patrice Rushen - Remind Me: The Classic Elektra Recordings 1978-1984

The impact of Patrice Rushen on the music industry at large over the past four decades is ineffable. As a musical director for prominent concerts and award shows and a revered session musician, she’s left her stamp of melodic and rhythmic prowess on many timeless recordings and live performances. Much of the listening public, however, likely thinks first of her oft-sampled, funky 1982 R&B jam “Forget Me Nots” upon hearing her name. Indeed, the unassuming dancer laced with Rushen’s gently compelling vocal delivery is a force to be reckoned with, and Strut Records’ new 15-track collection of her prime cuts from this era affords fans a chance to further explore and review the impressively effective brand of soulful grooves she perfected as a songwriter, producer, keyboardist, and singer along the way.

Patrice Rushen - Remind Me: The Classic Elektra Recordings 1978-1984

The impact of Patrice Rushen on the music industry at large over the past four decades is ineffable. As a musical director for prominent concerts and award shows and a revered session musician, she’s left her stamp of melodic and rhythmic prowess on many timeless recordings and live performances. Much of the listening public, however, likely thinks first of her oft-sampled, funky 1982 R&B jam “Forget Me Nots” upon hearing her name. Indeed, the unassuming dancer laced with Rushen’s gently compelling vocal delivery is a force to be reckoned with, and Strut Records’ new 15-track collection of her prime cuts from this era affords fans a chance to further explore and review the impressively effective brand of soulful grooves she perfected as a songwriter, producer, keyboardist, and singer along the way.

Five albums Rushen released from the late 1970s to the mid-‘80s serve as the foundation for Remind Me: The Classic Elektra Recordings 1978-1984. Within, the scope of sounds stretches from easy-flowing, thoughtful ballads to understated synth-funk midtempo’s and bright and brassy disco nuggets. Opening with the engaging, Latin-spiced percussive strains of “Music of the Earth” from 1978’s Patrice LP, the collection quickly establishes the worldly musicality of Rushen, who at the time of this particular recording was just coming off the success of three primarily instrumental jazz/fusion albums for the Prestige label. Evincing the eclectic influence of Earth, Wind & Fire arrangements from the period, “Music of the Earth” leads nicely into the exquisite “Let’s Sing a Song of Love.” “No words, just music,” backing vocalists Sheree Brown, Roy Galloway, and Jim Gilstrap woo (along with a series of jazzy riffs) to the backdrop of Rushen’s buoyant Rhodes strokes and grand piano flourishes.

Fast forward one year to 1979, and Rushen began solidifying her R&B-steeped style, working alongside producers Reggie Andrews and Charles Mims, Jr., to season the jazz underpinnings with a consistently funky bottom and radio-friendly embellishments. Without sacrificing her structurally savvy approach from earlier material, she offered uptempo treats (the zesty “Haven’t You Heard”) and pensive slow-grooves (“Settle for My Love”) which could be enjoyed in equal measure by R&B enthusiasts and jazz-leaning pundits.

The repertoire comprising 1980’s subsequent Posh occasionally ventured into more predictable song structure and less imaginative musical arrangements. While “Look Up” and “Never Gonna Give You Up” are both feel-good tunes, they lack a certain spark present on the aforementioned tracks. Rushen turned that around, though, on what qualifies as her true “breakout” album from 1982, Straight from the Heart. It’s fair to say that Heart forms the centerpiece of Remind Me, with a total of five of its selections (three single releases and two much-appreciated album tracks) making appearances here.

Remind Me strives to represent the breadth of Rushen’s Elektra catalog as an entity, rather than serving strictly as an assemblage of singles and hits. Thus, the frequently sampled, plush midnight-love classic “Remind Me” from Straight from the Heart is included, while that album’s undeniably groovy single “I Was Tired of Being Alone” doesn’t make the cut. Notably, however, where Rhino’s mid-‘90s Rushen retrospective contained several chart entries not found here, it didn’t feature any material from her Elektra debut, Patrice, from which three gems on this collection are sourced.

In addition to two cuts from Rushen’s final Elektra LP, 1984’s Now (the sleek synth-funk stunner “Feels So Real (Won’t Let Go)” and the similarly beckoning “To Each His Own”), a trio of beauteous ballads from various stages of her tenure with the label effectively demonstrate her well-rounded approach to lyrical interpretation. In the press release for Remind Me, she observes, “Although ballads make you feel more vulnerable as an artist because they are often personal, I think listeners relate to that sincerity.” 1979’s “Settle for My Love”—on which Rushen also sits in the drummer’s chair—evokes dreamy late nights in dreamland with her pipes soaring from soft coos to impassioned longing, while 1978’s “When I Found You” conjures springtime calm with a charmingly vulnerable delivery.

Remind Me: The Classic Elektra Recordings 1978-1984 is required listening for any studious musicians striving to better understand the underlying connections between jazz, R&B, and dance music. For more casual fans of popular music at large only familiar with Rushen from “Forget Me Nots,” the collection is the perfect starting point to understanding those connections on a visceral level—as well as her important role in helping to define the eclectic rhythms and melodies of soul music through the 1980s and ‘90s. Highly recommended.

by Justin Kantor

 
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