Magic Smile - A Tribute to Rosie Vela

Made On a Mac

Rosie the Musician

The 'Zazu' Album Cover

Rosie Vela's music career is not the story of a typical "pop star wannabe" model. Quite the contrary. She is a talented, unique songwriter and musician who had been in bands before her modelling career even began. Read below to learn about her debut album, "Zazu," her movie soundtrack recordings, her unreleased second album, and her more recent work.


In the mid '80s, Rosie decided to put her modelling career on hold so that she could pursue her musical ambitions. She signed with A&M records in 1986 and recorded and released her debut album, "Zazu," that year. This haunting collection of songs features unique jazzy melodies, dreamy vocals, and clever, idiosyncratic lyrics about lost love. You might remember the singles "Magic Smile," "Interlude," and "Fool's Paradise," which got some minor radio and video airplay. During 1987 Rosie toured briefly in support of "Zazu," opening up shows for The Fixx and Andy Summers in the USA.

In addition to its own musical virtue, "Zazu" marked the first time in years that Walter Becker and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan came together in a studio. Fortunately for Rosie, her album was being produced by long-time Steely Dan producer Gary Katz, and Walter happened to drop by the studio one day for a listen. Gary also played some of Rosie's tracks for Donald. Funnily enough, both Walter and Donald each independently asked to play on "Interlude." This song and several of Zazu's others feature Donald on synthesizer and Walter on guitar.


Unfortunately, "Zazu" didn't generate a large number of sales over the years, and in the early '90s it went out of print in the USA. For a few years it continued to be sold in Europe and Asia, but by 1998 it became unavailable everywhere in the world. In 2001 Universal Music rereleased "Zazu" in Japan, and it could be purchased worldwide as an import CD. However, as of 2005 the CD is no longer available from them. Hopefully Universal Music will see fit to reissue "Zazu" soon.

The 'Fool's Paradise' Single Cover

Currently, the only way to purchase the "Zazu" CD is by bidding on a copy when you see one being offered at the eBay and GEMM sites. Vinyl and cassette versions of "Zazu" are often available for bid at those sites as well.


Soon after the release of "Zazu," Rosie sang backup vocals along with Joni Mitchell on Don Henley's song "Who Owns This Place?" from the soundtrack to the movie "The Color of Money." Rosie's next musical endeavor took place in the 1991 movie "Inside Edge." Starring as a nightclub singer, she performed the bluesy ballads "Can't Walk Away from Your Love" and "Heavy Rain." In the late '90s, Rosie co-wrote a heavy rocker called "A Woman Like That" with Jeff Lynne (the Move, ELO, Travelling Wilburys) for a British movie called "Still Crazy."


In 1990, Rosie completed a second album of 10 songs titled "Sun Across the Altar." Sadly, it was never released. That year her record company, A&M, was bought out by Polydor. Thinking Rosie's music wasn't commercial enough, Polydor tried to get her to rap on one of the songs and then wanted her to rework the album with a heavy metal producer. Since Rosie understandably felt misunderstood by Polydor, she parted ways with them in 1991. It's sad that the world hasn't heard this fine recording. In the May 1994 issue of the now-defunct Steely Dan fan mag Metal Leg, guitarist Rick Derringer (who played on both of Rosie's albums) is quoted as saying that Rosie's second album "is excellent...the music, lyrics, songs, and singing exceed the quality of 'Zazu.'"


In the early '90s, Rosie began working on a third album of songs. Sessions for this new recording were unfortunately postponed in 1994 when Rosie took time off to recover from an automobile accident. Once Rosie got back on her feet, she resumed recording and completed several songs. Some of them were produced by Jeff Lynne.

The album was again put on hold in 2000 when Rosie began working with Jeff Lynne on new projects for his band, the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO). She helped him compile and remaster songs for "Flashback," a three-CD retrospective of ELO's music, and she later did some work on ELO's album, "Zoom," which was released in 2001. Rosie's contributions to "Zoom" consisted of singing backup vocals on "Alright" and "All She Wanted," speaking some lines in Spanish on "Stranger on a Quiet Street," and assisting with the string arrangement on that same tune. Once the album was completed, Rosie performed with ELO as a vocalist during the band's first concerts in 15 years.

Hopefully one day Polydor will release "Sun Across the Altar," Rosie will finish her third album, and the world will give Rosie's music the attention it so richly deserves.

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