Saturday, May 19, 2007
Disco Delivery #41:
Táta Vega - Try My Love (1978, Tamla/Motown)
Táta Vega - Get It Up For Love (LP Version)
Táta Vega - Get It Up For Love (12'' Version)
Táta Vega - Come On And Try My Love
Táta Vega - I Just Keep Thinking About You Baby (LP Version)
Táta Vega - I Just Keep Thinking About You Baby (12'' Version)
Táta Vega - Whopper Bopper Show Stopper
Táta Vega - I Need You Now
Carmen Rose AKA 'Táta' Vega (sometimes with the á, sometimes not) was, in my opinion, one of the more unique voices at Motown in the late '70s.. Prior to her Motown days, Tata got her start as part of a group called Pollution, which featured her and Dobie Gray on vocals, and according to at least one source (I wish I had the albums to confirm), future members of Sylvester and The Hot Band, no less. Just to add another dimension of colourful intrigue, Pollution was managed by none other than Max Baer, Jr. of the Beverly Hillbillies fame..
After two albums as part of Pollution, Tata would eventually end up on Motown as part of another group called Earthquire, who had released one album on Motown's Natural Resources imprint. Needless to say, she wasn't exactly a newcomer to the label or to the industry upon the release of her debut album "Full Speed Ahead" (1976, Tamla/Motown). Though despite releasing four albums as a soloist on Motown's Tamla imprint, apparently she wouldn't rack up any real massive hits with them, yet she still put out some excellent material during her time at the label. Judging from the chart positions on the All Music Guide, this album, "Try My Love" would have likely been her most commercially successful record and, in my opinion, right along with "Totally Tata," (1977, Tamla/Motown) perhaps the best out of her Motown albums..
Before really getting to the album, however, I can't go any further without paying some special attention to Tata's voice.. This was the first album of hers that I ever got and I have to say, there was just a certain something about her voice.. Something that managed to be both endearing and captivating, yet also somewhat odd at the same time. Initially, my first impression was that it reminded me of a higher, slightly nasal Chaka Khan.. I'm likely not the first to make the Chaka Khan comparison, but just to take that a little further, another way to look at it would probably be like a cross between Chaka and then Motown labelmate Teena Marie. A voice with the soulful warmth and commanding power of a Chaka Khan, combined with the spunkiness of Teena Marie, among other things. My own lazy comparisons aside though, beyond all other things, there was just a certain charming, soulful sweetness to Tata's voice that was truly all her own. It's one of the things which made this album particularly satisfying, with the material on here showcasing it beautifully, from the cover shots and into the grooves, perfectly zeroing in on that soulful, powerful sweetness..
Taking on uptempo, soulful R&B, sublime balladry, a touch of playful funk along with some great uplifting and sexy disco; with it's diverse, high-quality, accessible material, it seemed like one of those albums that was specially engineered to garner a hit or two. Yet even if it didn't break her through like Motown execs might have expected, it's an album which remains thoroughly enjoyable, not so much because of any unifying concept, but because all the songs were of such a high quality and with Tata bringing so much personality to them, they all end up sounding excellent.. Like all her other Motown records, this album was primarily produced by Winston Monseque, although I believe this is the only one largely co-produced and arranged by former Rufus drummer (Chaka connection number two!) and future Mr. Natalie Cole, André Fischer, whose credited on much of the album. On that note, this album, along with Brenda Russell's first album, are both notable for being among Fischer's first production credits..
The two major standouts on the album, especially from a disco perspective would have to be, without a doubt, "Get It Up For Love" and "Just Keep Thinking About You Baby." Both tracks were evidently released in the US on a double A-side 12'' single, with both recieving special disco mixes. To me, both tracks are not only some of Tata's best, but definitely among some of the best disco Motown was putting out at this time. "..Just Keep Thinking About You Baby," is just simply one of those immediately infectious, dare you-not-to-hum-along kind of songs. One of those grooves which is practically bursting with such pure, unadulterated happiness and joy, one can't help but feel free and happy inside just listening to it.. The rich, layered production with the strings, horns and piano in the mix and that awesome drum track right up front make this an energetic, soulful, veritable disco tour-de-force, especially when the strings punctuate the mix and start to take part of the melody towards the end.. Topping it all off, Tata herself is outstanding on this track, with her lively, dynamic performance, especially with some of those 'how'd-she-do-that?' vocal ad-libs both matching and enhancing the fullness and energy of the song, note-for-note..
The 12'' version extends the track by around a minute and a half giving it a slightly longer intro and a nice instrumental break two-thirds of the way through, with the whole thing punctuated by a bigger, fatter bass drum. Just for maximum dancefloor impact, the bass drum is even further augmented at one point with some deep, overlayed synth effects (which are on the LP version as well, just louder on here), making the beat practically bounce out of the mix.. Overall though, it's still a rather conservative remix, yet it ably does the job enhancing just a few key elements to give things a bit of extra presence..
Years later, in 2001, Gloria Gaynor would do a cover version of this, which was released as a single and included on her last album, "I Wish You Love" (2002, Logic/BMG). She would end up having a #1 Billboard club hit with it, but with all due respect to Gloria, her version, although good in it's own right, can't touch Tata's spirited rendition here..
The other big disco track on the album, Ned Doheny's "Get It Up For Love," was one that had made the rounds somewhat during the late 70's.. Prior to this release, versions had also been done by the likes of Doheny himself, David Cassidy, Ben E. King and the Average White Band among others, yet out of all of the others I've heard so far, in my opinion, Tata's has got to be one of the best. Produced by Monseque and Fischer, Tata's version is propelled by an instantly catchy synth refrain and further augmented by those sublime arrangements featuring those airy synth sounds; richly textured, galloping percussion and a dynamic, supple bassline. Overall, there's a definite sexiness and sensuality to this version which, combined with it's energetic, irresistable danceablilty, turns it into an absolute disco scorcher..
One of my favourite parts of the album version is that part in the middle when it plays a little trick on the listener with that surprise fade-out.. Just when you think it's all over, it fades right back into a tasty synth break giving prime exposure to that hypnotic synth refrain and frenzied synth solo. Another absolutely killer moment in this song which also deserves some appreciation is when Tata sings the line: "you can flee in terror, you can stay and fight, you can stand in line and scream it's.. just..not..right, baby.." With that perfect, gritty emphasis on "scream", her vocals are just so absolutely on-point here..
Interestingly, the 12'' version, at around 5.49, is actually shorter than the album version, which is just over six minutes. Again, a fairly conservative remix with the main difference being that the 12'' mix takes out that little surprise fadeout in the middle, giving it a much more steady, focused danceable dynamic..
Just to make another Chaka Khan connection, the writer, Ned Doheny had also co-written (along with the Average White Band's Hamish Stuart) one of my favourite Chaka singles: "What Cha' Gonna Do For Me," from her '81 album of the same name..
Aside from the two big disco tracks, I also had to include some of the other uptempo tracks as well, namely the bright album opener "Come On And Try My Love" which, quite appropriately, makes the perfect showcase for the sweet warmth of her vocals; as well as a little funky moment from side two, "Whopper Bopper Show Stopper." The latter track is easily one of the funkiest, quirkiest, most enjoyable things she's ever put her name to. Given that "Whopper Bopper Show Stopper" is also the title to Motown labelmate Junior Walker's 1976 Motown album and given, as well, the penchant for Motown artists to cover each other's material from time to time, I'm guessing Tata's version is perhaps not the only one.. Either way, hell if I actually know what the damn song's about anyway, but as usual, Tata totally turns this one out with a fun, spunky vocal..
Lastly, I also had to include a great R&B track off side one, "I Need You Now," written by legendary classic Motown writers Brian and Eddie Holland. Driven by that great piano and Tata's powerful, heartfelt vocals; melodically speaking, it's beautiful and brilliant in it's own humble way and is, at least to me, one of the hidden gems off this album..
After this, Tata would end up doing only one more album for Motown, "Givin' All My Love" (1981, Tamla/Motown). According to her: "...after about nine years with Motown, a Motown executive told me I was too old, too fat, and that my career as a recording artist for the label was washed up.." and with that, evidently her career as a Motown artist came to an end. Although her Motown period would remain the most prolific for her as a soloist, one of her biggest moments was yet to come.. Even if her name isn't instantly recognizable to many people, her voice would be featured quite prominently on the Quincy Jones-produced soundtrack to "The Color Purple," where Tata provided the singing voice for Margaret Avery's character. It's been so long since I've seen the movie, I can barely remember it, but hearing her on a tracks like "Miss Celie's Blues (Sister)" and "Maybe God Is Trying To Tell You Something," her performances on the soundtrack are easily one of the high points in her career, showcasing her voice and abilities like nothing else before..
Although she had dabbled in Christian music on her Motown albums (ie. "Try God," "Come In Heaven, Earth Is Calling"), later into the 80's after her departure from the label, she would start collaborating with contemporary gospel pioneer Andraé Crouch who, in her words "took me in when I had no place to go".. After battling a crack addiction in the mid 80's, Tata would end up committing herself even more fully to Christian music and faith..
In a very revealing interview with Today's Christian Woman magazine in 2000, Tata chronicled some of her life experiences and how she, to quote the article, "..had found hope and healing from her painful past." If anything, after reading about her struggles with, among other things, rape, self-esteem and drug addiction, the woman's certainly led one hell of a life.. Although I'm hardly a religious person, and despite my own reservations about elements of Christianity, one can't help but empathize with her after reading her story; that in spite of everything she's gone through, she finally seems to have found healing and a sense of peace in her life..
Since leaving Motown, Tata's only recorded a couple of albums to her name, "Time's So Right" in 1988 and most recently, a gospel album in the late '90s on Quincy Jones' Qwest label called "Now I See" (1998, Qwest/Warner Bros.).. Aside from her own albums, since the 1980's and even into more recent years, she's also become a pretty prolific background/session vocalist, appearing on albums by the likes of Pat Benatar, Melissa Manchester, Patti Austin, Patti LaBelle, and Elton John, just to name a few.
Unfortunately, Motown/Universal have yet to release any compilations or album reissues of Tata's recordings. Given some of her excellent material at Motown, hopefully that omission will be rectified in the near future.. On the bright side, "Totally Tata" was recently reissued on CD in 2005 by the P-Vine label in Japan, where they seem to get all the good stuff..
Despite being relatively under-represented on CD, the full 12" versions of Tata's "Get It Up For Love" and "..Just Keep Thinking About You.." have both found their way to CD at different times.. "I Just Keep Thinking About You Baby" appeared on the now out-of-print compilation "Funkology, Volume Three: Dance Divas" (1996, Motown/PolyGram) and "Get It Up For Love" currently appears on the excellent (and highly recommended) double-disc set, "Motown Disco" (2005, Motown/Universal), which was exceptionally compiled by the very cool people over at Six Million Steps..
These days, Tata has apparently signed with a label called Do Rite Records, so it seems there's a possibility of some new material on the way. If anyone's interested, you can hear and read more about Tata on her official Myspace page.
To sum things up, no matter what the woman sings, be it R&B, disco, gospel or whatever, there's a quality in Tata's voice which never fails to capture and convey a certain uplifting joy. Even on a track like "I Need You Now," there's this twinge of endearing optimism and sweetness to her voice which ultimately always shines through. It's a quality which is well showcased on the album and a perfect fit for the kind of uptempo, uplifting disco which it featured.. Anyway, until next time, enjoy these tracks..
TÁTA VEGA - TRY MY LOVE LP @ DISCOGS
TÁTA VEGA - I JUST KEEP THINKING ABOUT YOU BABY/GET IT UP FOR LOVE 12'' @ DISCOGS
TÁTA VEGA - I JUST KEEP THINKING ABOUT YOU BABY/GET IT UP FOR LOVE 12'' @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
TÁTA VEGA @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
TÁTA VEGA @ SOULWALKING
TÁTA VEGA'S OFFICIAL MYSPACE
TODAY'S CHRISTIAN WOMAN: AMAZING GRACE - AN INTERVIEW WITH TÁTA VEGA (BY GINGER E. MACFARLAND) (JULY/AUGUST 2000)
LOS ANGELES BUSINESS JOURNAL: PURCHASE OF APARTMENTS HAS SWEET SOUND FOR PERFORMERS (TÁTA VEGA INTERVIEW QUOTES) (OCTOBER 23, 2000)
WINSTON MONSEQUE @ DISCOGS
ANDRÉ FISCHER @ DISCOGS
ANDRÉ FISCHER @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
ANDRÉ FISCHER @ STUDIOEXPRESSO
ANDRÉ FISCHER VIDEO INTERVIEW @ RECORDPRODUCTION.COM
VA - MOTOWN DISCO (2 CD)
AMAZON.CO.UK | DUSTY GROOVE | CD UNIVERSE | AMAZON.COM
CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO..