1. The Note
2. Better Wild (Than Mild)
4. Body Heat
5. Total Control
6. Soft Music
7. Baby Be Mine
8. I Wish You Were Here
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By 1986, Los Angeles R&B band Tease, a supergroup of sorts made of several competing bands in Southern California (and whose 1983 debut was shown here at The Vault few entries earlier), found itself out of its deal with RCA Records. Tease also found itself out of bassist Cornelius Mims, keyboardist Rex Salas (who had gone on to be Janet Jackson’s music director), and Josef Parson, their second guitarist. However, like all groups determined to make their mark, they were able to not only recover, but rebound.
Tease found a new home at CBS/Sony records and recorded under the Epic label, home to (most famously) Michael Jackson; they also found a new bassist in Jay Shanklin as well as a new keyboardist, another hard working member of the Los Angeles scene, one Chuckii Booker. While Booker was somewhat invisible as far as the band’s promotional material was concerned, he proved to be a rather critical piece of the puzzle. Prior to working on this album, Booker along with Tease’s lead vocalist Kipper Jones and the recently resigned Mims and Salas lent their composition “Action Speaks Louder Than Words” to P-Funk offshoot Kiddo’s 1984 album Action. With Chuckii now a credited member of the group, the band’s compositions became even tighter. Tease made one other critical move, and that was swapping once-producer Ollie Brown for Lakeside guitarist/producer Stephen Shockley, who brought them into the fold of another Los Angeles R&B institution: the SOLAR Records stable of artists.
From the album’s opener, the curious “The Note”, a funky number about a man who left (of all things) a suicide note penned by Kipper Jones and Cornelius Mims, there was a distinct shift in sound, marked by Chuckii Booker’s all-too energetic synthesizer, which brings Prince to mind. It’s often been remarked that the general tone of the song resembles a male take on Klymaxx’s records of the time, and that apparently is no coincidence. In liner notes to a recent reissue of this album, it was revealed that the members of Tease participated on sessions to Klymaxx’s album Girls Will Be Girls album, by producer Shockley and Kipper Jones. Following this is “Better Wild (Than Mild)”, the album’s hardest-hitting track, written by the band, and full of the Minneapolis influence that many bands of the era wore on their sleeves, but here might be even a little tougher than what was the usual fare for 1986.
One striking feature of this album over their previous effort is the inclusion of songs written outside the band. Besides “Body Heat”, which is a James Brown cover, that loses some of its luster under that mid-1980s instrumentation, but little of its energy, “Firestarter” (the album’s signature track) and “Soft Music” (one of the first songs given from Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds to artists outside his own group of the time, The Deele) show that the band can handle outside material very well. For fans of the LA/Face sound that artists like Pebbles and Bobby Brown rode to much success only a couple of years later, the latter is especially recommended.
The “Booker” effect is certainly felt on tracks like “Total Control” (with a hilarious, “bleeped” out lyric) and the excellent “Baby Be Mine”, which definitely has the effect of something that Morris Day and The Time might have made were they still together around this time. Kipper Jones’s regal vocals rise above the tightly-knit funk (a little too tight for 1986, one might think) on the latter, but the true power of his voice is felt on the album’s closer, “I Wish You Were Here”, which one could almost call a secular spiritual. Written by Jones and former band member Rex Salas, this track meets an emotional and lyrical apex that the ballads of the album prior just could not reach.
The result of all this carefully crafted work was Tease’s commercial breakthrough, and while they only lasted one more album as a group (before its members went on to other things), it was worth the three-year wait.