2. Boys And Girls
3. Part Of Me
5. Put The Brakes On Baby
6. What Should I Do
7. I Found In You
8. Saturday Night
9. Pretty Little Lady
Source: Vinyl LP
Format: VBR V0 MP3 (FLAC Lossless Format Available On Request)
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The Los Angeles R&B scene of the 1980s was largely identified on a national scale by the sounds of superproducer Leon Sylvers III and cohorts, producing mostly on the SOLAR record label. Sylvers’s meticulous studio magic was one of the sharpest sounds this side of Prince in the 1980s, and with artists like the Whispers, and other Soul Train staples such as Dynasty bearing that sonic hallmark, the shift from a more disco-influenced sound in the latter half of the 1970s to a synthesizer-friendly, organic and sophisticated live modernized R&B sound became that much more seamless.
More than anything, however, Los Angeles was a place known for slick studio work, in R&B and elsewhere, early in the 1980s. Ray Parker Jr., a Detroit import, had made a name for himself on the Sunset strip, writing and producing for a plethora of artists including his own act, Raydio, before going solo early in the 1980s. Somehow, he and his cohorts in Raydio, namely one Ollie Brown, found their way around the R&B scene in this era, rather deftly. Brown, who was one of the key players in Parker’s Raydio project, had his hand in producing a number of acts and participating on records coming out of L.A., including this one, from a band that very obviously could not resist the charms of the “new sound” bubbling halfway across the country in Minneapolis.
Tease, first assembled in 1979 in Los Angeles, had about a 5 year run in recorded music, changing its members with each album; the group heard here in their 1983 debut was perhaps their strongest incarnation. Obviously inspired by Prince associates, The Time, Tease was a sextet gathered around the lead vocals of Kevin “Kipper” Jones, with an interesting twist on the rhythm section. Instead of dual keyboardists, Tease employed dual guitarists in Thomas Organ and Josef Parson; Derek Organ, younger brother to Thomas, played drums and percussion, Rex Salas handled all keyboards, and Cornelius Mims, who left Tease to do more session work after their debut, commanded the bass guitar with a ferocity required of the job.
In this introductory set, the roles of the band are clearly defined — Kipper does not seek to imitate Morris Day’s inimitable character, but adds humor in songs like “Boys and Girls”, playing the role of a teacher trying to keep an unruly class in line. The rest of the band goes to work on grooves, which seem more inspired by the more “live sound” of The Time’s earlier records and their concerts — less on the drum machines, more on the heart. In this regard, Tease’s debut resembles What Time Is It?, particularly songs like “The Walk” and “Wild And Loose” — the latter, which seems to be the basis of “Boys and Girls”, the most crucial song in this set.
While Kipper’s falsetto on the opener, “Flash” certainly brings Prince to mind, thankfully he lets his real voice shine for the remainder of the album. Songs like “I Found In You” and “Part Of Me” step outside their influences in that they are conventional ballads, without the kind of humor that keeps you from taking the songs completely seriously. Both “What Should I Do” and “Saturday Night” tread a new wave/pop/rock territory that shows the Prince influence, as they both venture out of comfortable R&B and Funk lands — but at the same time, do not sound completely out of place or uncomfortable for the band. “Bite” and “Pretty Little Lady” bring that What Time Is It? brand of ’80s hard funk in heavy doses, while “Put The Brakes On Baby” goes left with an interesting bridge that shows the most originality of their grooves on the record, but goes a little more obviously risque toward the end, almost to their detriment.
Reknowned music journalist and critic Nelson George once remarked, in a mini-documentary on Prince, that the export of the Minneapolis Sound to Los Angeles was at times, not very good; I wonder if he had this record (or SOLAR recording artists The Deele) in mind when he made this comment. While this record certainly falls short of the high bar set by The Time’s What Time Is It?, Tease does a very good job of wearing that influence without being a shameless copy (as would be found on records produced by Allen A. Jones in this era). There isn’t a lot of Linn Drum-wanna be grooves, outside of “Flash”, there isn’t a bunch of hilarious falsetto overdubs, or Morris Day-isms on this record. This is a band looking to be heard, and for the most part, they’ve earned their listen.