Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Anita Baker "Rapture" (1986)

Released: April 1986
Label: Elektra
Produced by: Anita Baker and Michael J. Powell
Highest UK Chart Position: 13

1. Sweet Love
2. You Bring Me Joy
3. Caught Up In The Rapture
4. Been So Long
5. Mystery
6. No One In The World
7. Same Ole Love
8. Watch Your Step

Of the records I intend to put up over the next two weeks, this one strays deepest into big, gospelly, belting-voice territory. I don’t know how much influence “executive producer” Anita Baker had over the sound of this record, but with the aid of Michael J. Powell, she cut this unsurpassable album in 1986 (her second album, her debut was released to great acclaim in 1983). Anita Baker is a proper singer if you know what I mean. She does astonishing things with her voice here. In fact “Rapture” is the sort of record you hope Leona Lewis or Alexandra Burke might make one day. Baker’s voice reminds me of Mary J. Blige at times, but is richer still. Let’s cut to the chase: the Voice is the main attraction here. The songs are usually amazing too. “Sweet Love” (probably the best thing here in fairness) is still a staple of daytime radio and VH1 Classic. Anita co-wrote that one too (she also wrote “”Been So Long” and “Watch Your Step”). Eleven songwriters are credited on the album in total, including Rod Temperton of Heatwave and “Thriller” fame, who offers “Mystery” - one of this album’s highlights. “Caught Up In The Rapture” was a sizeable hit too, and sounds a bit like something Steely Dan might do when they’re feeling poppy (think Rosie Vela’s “Zazu” album). It’s easy to imagine (Steely Dan backing vocalist and Doobie Brother) Michael McDonald singing most of the songs here actually. Anita has had one of those “long and distinguished” careers which hasn’t furnished her with many hits, so she’s often thought of as a one-hit wonder by people on the eastern side of the Atlantic. She had a minor hit with “Giving You The Best That I Got” in 1988 and that was great too, but she’ll probably be best remembered for, even become synonymous with, “Rapture”, a record which oozes adult sophistication. It’s like the soul equivalent of reggae’s “lovers rock”. I’d describe it as “music to hump to” if that didn’t sound so ghastly. Besides this music doesn’t deserve to be backgrounded, you’ll want to lose yourself in its lusciousness. Get caught up in the rapture, indeed.

Tomorrow: Tweet "Southern Hummingbird"