How can people come and go, have pretty major hits but disappear off the radar with not so much as a bye or leave. The nature of celebrity, of success, is fleeting for most. But as we have said before, for the determined digger, the stories of careers gone off the rails, or just stuck in the wrong station, can be fruitful indeed. And so it is with the career of early 1980s R’n’B lady of the moment Stacy Lattisaw.
Now you may be thinking, how anyone can ever be a household name with a surname so tricky to get your mouth around, but it is true, Stacy was big news
in the early 80s. An early protégé of Narada Michael Walden, she burst on the scene aged just 12 in 1979 and then recorded a string of hit albums for the Cotillion label between 1981 and 86, before leaving for an ill-fated signing with Motown. And from there she disappeared, seemingly taking her musical legacy and renown with her. In fact she left, as many female singers particularly do, to have a family. No mystery there then. Disillusionment with the travails of the industry is understandable and more than acceptable.
Lattisaw still records though, nowadays Gospel, having returned to the fray under her own terms. But there was a time when Stacy Lattisaw was blazing a trail for synth led funky soul, including the 1984 album “Perfect Combination” with her own protégé, the pre-New Edition Johnny Gill. There are true gems in her output, including the sample you’ll all know from Mariah’s massive “Heartbreaker”. In fact if you search for “Attack of the Name Game”, the tune from her 1982 “Sneakin Out” LP that Carey samples to great effect, you are in for a bizarre and strangely alluring treat, a kind of teenage proto-rap that should grate but somehow charms. But for now let’s peep the equally interesting “Block Party” from the Johnny Gill collabo. It might just rub you the right way.
Life is like a box of chocolates, or so it has been said. But in the case of LA’s own Boogie Ambassador Dam-Funk (Dam, as in Dame Dash, or even our own Dame Cash, rhyming with lame, but never ever sounding like it), life is like a box of funky chocolate liqueurs, laced with the dirtiest, stankiest eighties electro soul bass-lines for fillings, and sprinkled with a dusting of other-worldliness. Heads lucky enough to reside in the City of Angels will no doubt be regulars of Dam’s weekly residency, taking punters steadily through the outer reaches of his funkmosphere. But for those not fortunate enough to dwell in the g-funk bosom, Stones Throw (of course) is an alternative and more readily available residence.
Dam Funk has been molding his distinctly unique take on the funk for years, a contemporary of Ice Cube, Dre and DJ Quik rather than younger cats. And a stalwart of the LA scene also, as producer, arranger, composer and performer, adding his box of synth tricks to a range of records you’ll already know and love. But it is only relatively recently that he has come through to present his own musical musings on debut record “Toeachizown”, and the result is simply breath-takingly good, as are the various selections to come from him since.
Many will have already followed DF’s progress, not least in his Rhythm Trax contribution to the brilliant Stones Throw compilation series (Vol 4 if you are asking). But now his funky vision is in full surround sound stereo, bursting forth like the rosiest-tinted vision of the past, wrapped up in a Linn drum machine and a motorcade of analog synth machines from the early 1980s, and presented in a bugged out mirage of magic. His instrumental odysseys are simply sensational, reflecting a life in the Californian sunshine beat-mining for the very best of G-Funk, P-Funk, electro boogie and funky soul and rock.
His knowledge is encyclopedic, from early Prince, George Clinton, Slave and Change, through to obscure B-sides and even early 1980s rock and metal. All tied together for the search for the elusive hidden funk chord, the funkiest chord ever played. Seriously, this is what he searches for. Dam-Funk’s are compositions to get lost in, sick constructions of beats that lazily dig into your psyche whilst simultaneously astounding your senses. It is sexy, alien, crunk-stepping boogie funk for the next millennium, let alone the next decade. The funk bar just went over the horizon, and Dam-Funk is leading the charge to get it back.
The music industry is of course littered with the broken remains of talented individuals and collectives who never quite found their niche in the record-buying public’s consciousness, or indeed wallet. In fact, scrub that. There are many talented individuals and collectives who were failed by the no-brain short-sighted so-called record industry (R.I.P circa 2005) who were afraid to invest greedy share-holder money in true talent and diversity, instead preferring a formulaic approach to manufactured hype, manufactured sales, and manufactured music. The record industry has traditionally been corrupt, greedy, heartless and exploitative. This we know.
Thankfully one of the democratizing effects of the internet is the revolution in direct to consumer goods, and this is particularly beneficial for musicians. Of course it means that there is an awful lot of dross about, but it means that the route to recognition is no longer dependent on half-arsed A&R, promotion budgets (or lack of them), and genre-enforcing restrictive radio or video play. The times they are a-changin’, albeit in directions we are not yet fully aware of. Anyway, that slightly irate preamble is just that, a preamble, but does serve to explain in part why the talented but under-appreciated Philly songstress Res is also just that, i.e. supremely talented but still amazingly under-valued. Don’t get us wrong, Res has a sizeable following, and rightly so, but just that she is one of these incredibly talented artists who seems to have been bruised by the vagaries of the so called music industry. But at least she remains unbowed and I sstill producing knockout music.
On release of her quite extraordinarily diverse and accomplished debut, 2002’s “How I Do”, Res’ star seemed destined to shine bright. A great voice, insightful and intelligent lyrics, great production, a range of styles all executed with finesse and aplomb, a hip-hop sensibility underlying the whole package. And yet it just didn’t fully happen, her diversity and mastery of different approaches to her musical interests, seemingly allowing her to fall between stools. Radios wouldn’t play her as pop, she was too urban for mainstream rock, not urban enough for hip-hop or R’n’B channels. Music stores didn’t know where to shelve her album, while her label just seemed to want to shelve the follow-up album point blank. And this is a real shame because it truly was an accomplished album, and in a more enlightened age may have been heralded as something of a watershed for female artists. Not everyone’s cup of tea by any means, and eclecticism does not always equal brilliance, not by a long stretch, but the album did include some real highlights, and more than a few flashes of brilliance.
And one of these is one of our favourite songs of all time (and we know a lot of songs!). “Golden Boys” is one of those tunes that just sounds like a classic from the very first time you hear it. Res’ smooth Philly tones wreck shop all over the skittering, jazz-sensitive beat. The groove is incredibly infectious, and has a simply gorgeous laid-back feel, with a chorus that drips in down-tempo honey. The percussion is slightly on the off-beat, and the jarring effect only serves to focus attention to the confidence in the delivery and indeed the intelligent subject matter of the lyricism. Res’ lyrics are insightful and in parts scathing, clearly a lady who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, or at all. It could easily be the case that it is about fake industry types, a critique of the posing endemic in the rap and other music games (though we hear otherwise, but that is a different story). And the rest of the album flits refreshingly between jazz styles, smooth soul, bumping rock, and sassy R’n’B, with clever surprises thrown in as well, from the telephone keypad melody of “The Hustler”, the Cure sampling and quite brilliant “Let Love”, and the straight up hip-hop of the Nas featuring “Ice King”.
All in all it is an accomplished piece, and the fact that it largely failed to live up to its promise in terms of commercial return cannot really be laid at the artist’s own front door. Indeed recent internet releases from Res through her MySpace page, or her one-woman sound factory at theoneres.com, show that for this hip-hop-soul-rocker, the record industry’s loss is the music lover’s gain. As she may have said herself to the industry types who let her down “But then there’re girls like me who sit appalled by what we’ve seen, we know the truth about you”. Couldn’t say it better myself. And the best may still be yet to come, a golden age of res perhaps.