Ever since I was young, I have always liked soul music, and back in 1986 one of my all-time favorite soul albums was released. The album was Rapture by Anita Baker. Rapture was Anita Baker’s second album and was her breakthrough album. Also, in my opinion, it is Baker’s best album to date. Rapture went on to sell eight million copies, five million of those in the United States alone. The album earned Anita Baker two Grammy Awards, and one for Sweet Love, the first track on the album. Anita Baker’s debut album Songstress sold over four-hundred thousand copies, yet she still did not know whether she could make it as a singer. Indeed, after The success of Songstress she was still was unsure whether she should give up her job as a legal secretary. All I can say is that I am glad that Anita Baker decided to give up being a legal secretary, the legal industry’s loss was music’s gain.
When I listened to this album recently, I was struck by the fact that this album has a timeless quality, one never tires of hearing it, and it still sounds as fresh as it did twenty five years ago. Anita Baker undoubtedly has had an effect on all of the female soul singers that followed in her wake. One thinks of some of the recent nu-soul female vocalists like Maysa Leak, Angie Stone, Jill Scott and Erykah Badu and one can see that Baker has influenced them and their sound. However, Baker follows in a long line of female soul singers from leading luminaries including Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Minnie Riperton and Diana Ross, to lesser known, but still fabulous singers including Marlena Shaw and Esther Phillips. But what makes Rapture such a fabulous and special album? Well if you read on, I will tell you why.
The opening track on Rapture is Sweet Love, and what a way to start an album. Rapture is a fantastic track that allows Baker and her musician to showcase their considerable talents. The song is a love song with beautiful lyrics, it is about being in love and being scared of losing the one you love. These are sentiments that many people will be able to relate to. Baker co-wrote the words and music to Rapture along with Louis A. Johnson and Gary Bias. This demonstrated that Baker is not just a talented vocalist, but a talented songwriter as well
You Bring Me Joy is the next track on the album. This is another love song and is a celebration of being in love and Baker expresses the gratitude one feels when in a loving and stable relationship. The lyrics, like Rapture are beautiful and Baker’s delivery of the song is fantastic.
The next song Caught Up In the Rapture, like the previous two songs deals with love, and being in love. From the opening bars to the finish, this is, for me, the best track on the album. It is a thing of beauty, a tale of how two lovers meet and one’s feelings for the other. This is a slow track, and the backing musicians bring out the song’s beauty, playing around Baker’s stunning vocal, complimenting Baker’s performance. The drums and percussion section especially, go a long way to making this track the success it was.
Been So Long is written by Baker herself. Here one can hear a real vintage jazz sound, that brings to mind previous singers like Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday. What I like about this track is Baker’s phrasing of the lyrics and how she uses space to let the song breath, which helps the impact of the song. Although this song is not of the quality of the first three tracks, it is still a good song. The problem Baker has here is the songs are of such a high quality that when the quality drops, even slightly, it is noticeable straight away.
Mystery is the next track is a cover of a Manhattan Transfer song. Baker’s version surpasses the original easily. From the finger popping of the intro to the outro, this is nearly five minutes of quality soul. Anita’s sultry voice weaves a tail of love gone wrong. It is a tale of woe and regret, about two people trying to recapture the love they have lost, and one is trying to find out why the other can’t give love another chance. This is a glorious song that one never tires of hearing.
No One In the World is the equal of anything on the album. The lyrics, and Baker’s delivery, are complimented by the backing vocalists, and there is almost an element of call and response in the way that they compliment each other. This is a luscious love song that when you listen to it, still has a freshness about it. It would not be out of place on any album being released today by a female vocalist. Marti Sharron’s words and and Ken Hirsch’s music are truly a masterpiece, that comes alive when sung by Anita Baker.
The penultimate song on Rapture is Same Ole Love. Here we have a change of tempo that finds Baker singing in appreciation of a lover. It is an uptempo song that allows both Baker and a very tight backing band to show what they are capable of. Interestingly, although this is an uptempo song both Baker and her band allow the song to breath at the start, and then gradually they up the tempo. She delivers the song beautifully and the song is a joyous one where she serenades her lover in appreciation of the things he does for her and what means to her. Truly this is a lovely song that keeps up the high standard of the rest of the album.
The final song on this album is Watch Your Step. This is another upbeat song which sounds like an open letter to an errant lover. Baker warns him that she has met his type before, and that one day it will be him that ends up being hurt one day. This song includes the lyric about the errant lover that you “change your mind like revolving door, change your women like you change your clothes”. In this song Baker has summed up her man and then goes on to warn him that she has met his type before. Anita Baker wrote the words and music for this song, and I have always wondered if this song is based on a personal experience. Regardless of whether this is the case, I am sure that many women will nod their heads when they hear this lyric, and say well said Anita.
So, I hope that once you have read this review of Rapture that should you not own a copy that you will be inspired to go out and buy it. If, however, you have this album in your collection, I hope that this review makes you dig out the album and listen to it again. In both cases you will not be disappointed, as this truly is one of the finest soul albums of the past thirty years. Anita Baker is a great artist, and Rapture is her finest album, this makes the album a good starting point for anyone wanting to find out more about Anita Baker and her wonderful music. The only thing that worries me about this album, is that it is now twenty-five years old, and what I would like to know is where did the time go?