- A collection of exquisite R&B from one of the best.
- "Sophisticated dance music." That's how Patrice Rushen describes the music she and her contemporaries were making in the late '70s when she was signed to Elektra Records. The label was looking to flesh out its new pop/jazz division and Rushen, 23 years old and already a virtuoso jazz pianist and arranger, was ready to add pop to her expanding repertoire of musical styles. She explained her shift from technical jazz to pop in her appearance on Soul Train, saying she saw music's turn toward "getting back to the groove again," with the kind of dance-oriented rhythms and gyrating basslines of '60s funk getting new life at the dawn of the '80s.
Always the prolific composer, Rushen released five albums in her seven years at Elektra. A selection of these recordings have been rereleased on Remind Me: The Classic Elektra Recordings 1978-1984. The compilation features more than 90 minutes of Rushen's most radio-friendly R&B. Like her mentor, Quincy Jones, another multi-instrumentalist who burst into pop from the world of jazz, she used her skills to seek out the best collaborators to bring her compositions to life. With many of her songs calling for a full brass ensemble on top of percussion, backing vocals and the works, many pieces list over a dozen collaborators. Unlike Quincy, she was also the voice and the face of her own songs. It was on Patrice, the first album released by Elektra in 1978, that Rushen introduced her voice. "Music Of The Earth," originally released on Patrice and the first track on Remind Me, is a successful balancing act between Rushen's breezy doo-wopping, an indelibly funky guitar and a brassy melody. Rushen leaned further into pop with her 1979 release, Pizzaz, with catchy hooks and plenty of handclaps on highlights like "Haven't You Heard."
The '80s brought a marked difference in Rushen's sound, aligning with a wave of change for dance music at large. Synthesizers had been used since the '60s, but it was the dance music frenzy of the '80s that saw synths used in every recording studios. "I was looking at different ways to experiment with the sounds on my records. We now had synths readily available, which widened the palette and colours available to us," says Rushen, who often refers to music in chromatic terms. Straight From The Heart, released in 1982, features liberal use of synthesizers, always at the hands of Rushen herself. It's the album that propelled her into the limelight, earning her two Grammy nominations for "Forget Me Nots" and "Number One," both of which appear on this compilation. Despite not being universally loved upon release (neither secured the Grammy, and Village Voice critic Robert Christgau wrote it off with casual misogyny, referring to the work and artist alternatively as "one dancey vamp" and "nouveau ingenue"), this work has aged remarkably well. "Forget Me Nots" was heavily sampled by Will Smith on the theme song for 1997's Men In Black. Having your song hijacked by Smith and a CGI alien might feel like a blow to sophistication, but her repertoire outshines it. The compilation's dance tunes overshadow the slow jams, and these dance tracks—without a shred of irony—still slap.
Some fans insist Rushen would have reached Prince levels of fame had she continued making pop albums (she knew Prince personally, but the comparison also refers to their respective positions as musical auteurs). She notes that "it is very gratifying to have a hit, but much more gratifying when that song is based upon true feelings and personal satisfaction." After leaving Elektra in 1984, Rushen stepped away from the Billboard 100 spotlight, going back to jazz and beginning a university teaching career that continues to this day. But Rushen's pop culture reach extends further than her time at Elektra, as well as beyond Men In Black. "Remind Me," which lends its title to this compilation, also off of Straight To The Heart, has been sampled almost 100 times, by the likes of Junior M.A.F.I.A., Mary J. Blige and Grandmaster Flash. She finds the continued relevance of her work in pop as "the highest compliment I could ever be paid." Remind Me proves that, among all of the one-hit wonders and superficial dance trends of 40 years ago, there is also pop that endures.
01. Music Of The Earth
02. Let's Sing A Song Of Love
03. Haven't You Heard (12-inch Version)
04. Patrice Rushen feat. D.J. Rogers (LP Version)
05. When I Found You
06. Forget Me Nots (12-inch Version)
07. Look Up! (Long Version)
08. Number One (12-inch Version)
09. Where There Is Love
10. Never Gonna Give You Up (Won't Let You Be)
11. All We Need
12. Remind Me (LP Version)
13. Settle For My Love
14. Feels So Real (Won't Let Go) (12-inch Version)
15. To Each His Own