Teena Marie, Irons in the Fire
Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Second Listen Sunday: Teena Marie, Irons in the Fire

Ever since Luther Vandross passed away, I always try and make a habit of seeing performers of yesteryear whenever I can. Well, as it often does in the summer of 2010, adulting got in the way of me seeing the legendary Teena Marie. Less than six months later, Lady T passed away, and I regret not seeing her.

Thankfully, her music lives on, and I wanted to pay homage to Marie’s third album and her personal favorite, Irons in the Fire. Artists releasing two albums was common in the music industry. Teena was still red hot with her second album Lady T when Irons in the Fire hit stores on August 14th, 1980. Marie could have done another year of  Lady T  promo due to that album’s strength.

While her first two albums were collaborations with other producers, Marie’s third album was her first self-produced effort. Irons in the Fire’s first single was the infectious bop, “I Need Your Lovin’. Before Marie sings a note, she pulls us into a groove. You can’t help but tap your feet when the track’s chorus arrives.

“I need your lovin’ and that’s the bottom line

I need your lovin’ or just a little time

I need your lovin’ and that’s the bottom line

I need your lovin’ or just a little time, this will do

Just a little lovin’, this will do

Just a little lovin’ this will do

Just a little lovin’ this will do

Just a little lovin’, me and you”.

Marie went to the ballad bag for the second single, “Young Love.” Lady T was twenty-four when she wrote the song. And hearing the lyrics, she writes from a standpoint anyone can relate to. Marie croons:

“I remember back in school

When I first laid my eyes on you

I saw your smile and knew right then and there

You reached out and touched my hand

And two became just one person

And no one could have stopped our love affair

But lately, we can’t even see each other, no

Without acting just like distant lovers

We’ve even took to fighting under covers

What a shame, baby, who’s to blame

Young love

Why you want to grow old on me now

Young love

Why you want to grow old on me now

Don’t say goodbye my love, no, no, no, baby

Just one more try, young love”.

The rest of the album somewhat foreshadows the sounds Marie would give us down the line. “First Class Love” and “Chains” finds Marie dipping into a rock sound that would turn “Lovergirl” into a hit. While the Latin flavors of “You Make Love Like Springtime” are arguably a precursor to “Portuguese Love.”

The reaming tracks on the album are two intense ballads. Up first is the album’s title track, where Marie pays homage to her late father. While “Tune In Tomorrow” is a somber slow jam about picking up the pieces after a relationship ends.

Marie was already a vocal powerhouse and talented musician before signing her deal with Motown. If the goal of Irons in the Fire was to exemplify that Lady T didn’t need the input of a major producer to create a quality album, Marie knocked it out of the box.

 

Final Grade: A-

Irons in the Fire is available on all streaming platforms.

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