(August 31, 2019). Erykah Badu is nothing if she’s not eclectic. Ever since she first hit the scene some 22 years ago with her debut album, she’s never failed to deliver one genre-stretching classic after another.
Back in April, to commemorate Record Store Day 2019, Badu and Roots collaborator James Poyser released on vinyl 45 their remake of a classic rock track that, by most accounts, should never be touched by anyone because, to borrow a lyric line: there’s no other. The original version is just that sublime.
The song was the 1981 pop rock hit “Tempted” by the British group Squeeze (written by group leaders Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford), a song far more famous than its No. 49 Billboard pop chart peak would otherwise suggest.
“Tempted” in its original form is that ubiquitous track that found a home on classic rock stations in the 1980s (when pop radio ignored it), and quite frankly, it never left. It’s been since featured in video games, movies and TV commercials. Whole new generations of fans have come to know and love the nearly 40-year-old tune because of its timeless quality.
Badu and Poyser reimagine the classic into a jazzy, piano and brass-heavy beauty that I discovered by accident while researching the song’s original creators ahead of their concert here in Chicago Saturday night (August 31).
The new track was produced by The Roots’ manager and Squeeze aficionado Steve Mandel (as part of an upcoming Squeeze tribute project) and straddles the fine line dividing neo soul and jazz, with Badu’s unique cadence and personality shining throughout. (This is also not the first time Badu has teamed with members of The Roots; she memorably collaborated with them 20 years ago on the Grammy-winning tune “You Got Me”).
Like the original “Tempted,” the new song maintains an understated elegance throughout – never achieving the full crescendo it truly deserves – but never really needing it either. And unlike the original, where former Squeeze member Paul Carrack’s powerful tenor vocal memorably carried the tune, it’s the instrumentation here (including contributions by multi-instrumentalist Thundercat, bassist Derrick Hodges and drummer Ali Jackson) that makes Badu’s and Poyser’s slower 2019 version so irresistible.
Only 3500 copies of the vinyl 45 single (on Yep Roc Records) were released to stores and sold online in April – at $10.99 each (remember when you could buy 45s for under a dollar? Yeah, I don’t either).
In June, the song was released to streaming services and is available on Spotify (where I’ve been playing it on repeat for two days).
If you don’t have Spotify, you can check out the audio clip from YouTube below.
Give Badu’s version a listen and let me and other readers know what you think in the comment section. For a reminder of the original’s greatness, check out Squeeze’s video below it.
DJRob is a freelance blogger who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.
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