So where were you this month in 1986 when Anita Baker released her second solo album, simply titled “Rapture?”
Aha. A few people think Anita’s Grammy-winning masterpiece was her debut album, but she cut “The Songstress” three years earlier on a different label, yielding two slow jam classics, “Angel” and “You’re the best thing yet.” That album wasn’t a commercial success and even after she signed with Warner subsidiary Eleketra in 1985, no one really expect Anita’s second album to be much different. Critics and R&B observers were wrong when Rapture won 1987’s “Best Female R&B Vocal Performance” Grammy, as well as the smash hit single “Sweet Love” winning best R&B song.
From beginning to end, the album comes to personify the secular definition of Rapture (“A feeling of ecstatic joy or delight, synonymous with Ecstacy”) with a nary a wasted note sung or played. Every sound had a purpose and that purpose was met with passion and enthusiasm – two qualities that make it a classic album to this very day.
The album kicks off with the aforementioned “Sweet Love,” with the opening bars setting the romantic tone for the album (“With all my heart, I love you baby) and it rides seamlessly through each song, including the album’s closer, the often-forgotten “Watch your step,” a true tale about the ups and downs of love. In between you have one of the true gems of the quiet storm genre (and my personal favorite on the album), the Rod Temperton-penned “Mystery,” which features one of the more scintillating intros you can find. It really sets the tone for a quiet, romantic, possibly erotic evening at home with your lover – the sun setting after a long day and coming home and slipping into something comfortable to chill with the one you’ve waited all day to see. Even after the intro, the song takes you to a place of contentment and satisfaction of looking your significant other in the eyes, with the Sparkle present thanks to the neatly-placed chimes on the track.
The very same could be said for “Caught up in the Rapture,” although it has a slightly different sound (a smooth bass and sweet acoutstic guitar play as the song rides out). The other songs on this album (not that they’re afterthoughts) include the sweet “You Bring Me Joy,” the upbeat shuffle of “Same Ole Love,” the declarative passion behind “No One In The World” and another acrobatic Anita vocal performance on “Been So Long.” It would take up far too much time to break down “Rapture” track for track, but if you haven’t heard the album yet, you’re doing yourself a real disservice.
While there have been longer, more intimately-charged albums that are R&B classics and standards, very few touch the delicate but applied instrumentation and overall feeling of passion and affection that Rapture employs and evokes. As it turns 25 years old this month, it still stands the test of time as a Quiet Storm masterpiece, one of many albums from the era where you could just turn it on, let it go, and let your night take shape.