Category Archives: Mary Jane Girls

Dystopian Dance Party presents Jheri Curl June: The Girls’ “Girl Talk”

thegirls

I’ve talked a fair amount on my own blog about the, ahem, interesting similarities between Rick JamesMary Jane Girls and Prince’s Vanity 6: a concept James always maintained he came up with first, only for the Paisley Bandit to swoop in and summarily bite it. But if other stories are to be believed, Prince was actually biting from someone much closer to home: his first bass player and one-time surrogate brother, André Cymone.

The rocky relationship between Prince and Cymone is another thing we’ve discussed in Jheri Curl Junes past, and it should be noted that Prince had a history of “borrowing” from his friend and collaborator: “Do Me, Baby,” among other early songs, was by all accounts an André Cymone joint. So it wasn’t exactly a shock to hear that Prince got the idea for a girl group after catching wind of Cymone’s own side project, creatively named “the Girls.” At some point, according to the excellent (and sadly out of print) biography Dance Music Sex Romance,  André and Prince even combined their ideas for the group, then known as “the Hookers”; André, however, walked away after realizing that Prince wanted him to do the work without taking any of the credit. And the rest was history: the Hookers became Vanity 6, who became Apollonia 6, and Cymone’s “Girls” released their debut album in 1984, to commercial and critical indifference.

thegirls-cassette

Like so much of the Prince/André Cymone saga, it’s easy to look at the Girls and imagine what might have been. They’re similar to Vanity 6, of course, but also distinct: their style is less Frederick’s of Hollywood, more New Wave Hookers. It’s also worth noting that all three of the “Girls”–Sheila Rankin, Germain Brooks, and Doris Ann Rhodes–were visibly African American, a marked contrast to the “crossover”-friendly ethnic ambiguity of Denise “Vanity” Matthews and company. And their songs are fun Minneapolis pop-funk with a heavier-than-usual dose of New Wave, very much in the vein of Cymone’s solo work from the same period; it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if some of the Girls’ debut album, Girl Talk, had been written by Cymone back when he was still involved with “the Hookers.” Had André and not Prince been the one with the major label deal at the time, Girl Talk would probably have the same cult-classic status as the Vanity 6 album does today.

But Prince was the one with the deal, and he also–sorry, André–had the edge in crafting memorable hooks. So, while Rankin, Brooks, and Rhodes were undeniably better singers than Denise and Susan, none of their material was as musically groundbreaking as “Nasty Girl,” or as charismatically camp as “If a Girl Answers (Don’t Hang Up)” (though the title track of Girl Talk gets an “A” for effort). But what is Jheri Curl June all about, if not celebrating the underdog? We dig the Girls, and if you’re reading this, we think you would dig them too.

There’s still one more week of Jheri Curl June over on Dystopian Dance Party; unfortunately, however, this will be my last guest post on Andresmusictalk. I’ve been doing this for just under a year, and I think it’s time for me to focus on my own projects. Thanks, everyone, for reading–I’m sure that Andre will continue to post some great material in the future!

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Filed under Andre Cymone, Apollonia, Mary Jane Girls, Minneapolis Sound, Prince, Vanity

Grooves On Wax: 1985-Albums & 12″ Inch Jheri Curl Funk

High Priority

1985 best epitomizes the presence of what my newest blogging partner Zach Morris of Dystopian Dance Party refers to as “Jheri Curl Funk”. True,there was a lot of flat synth pop on the same landscape. Still the electro funk and soul that came out during this year was some of the toughest and most daring of the sub genre. This album by Charrelle on the Tabu label is a great example. It’s a thematic/musical romantic concept album-utilizing Jam & Lewis’s cinematic synth funk touches on this gospel drenched,Deniece Williams like soulstress.

Key Jams: “You Look Good To Me”,”New Love” and “High Priority”

Samurai Samba

The Yellowjackets were an 80’s band who,like soloists such as Herbie Hancock and Paul Hardcastle,were able to great a strong electro funk/dance context for their jazz/funk fusion approach. This album is one of the best examples of this that I’ve heard so far, particularly when the heavy Afro-Brazilian percussion comes in.

Key Jams: “Homecoming”,”Dead Beat” and “Samurai Samba”

Mary Jane Girls

The second release for Rick James’ Mary Jane Girls was not only another in a pair of two very strong albums for them,but brought them the major smash hit “In My House” which,as my friend Henrique pointed out,has some of the thickest layers of deep rhythm guitar Rick had done during this period. The album maintains itself strong with one hard funk and brittle new wave number after another.

Key Jams: “In My House”,”Break It Up” and “Wild & Crazy Lover”

Masterpiece

Ron,Rudy and the late Kelly Isley re-emerged as a trio after over a decade in the groups 3+3 singer/instrumentalists sextet with their two younger brothers and Chris Jasper. Employing session aces such as Paulinho Da Costa,Paul Jackson and John Robinson,this album employs a sleeker version of their early 80’s sound,with a strong tendency towards rhythmically heavy mid tempo ballads. Still the original Isley’s trio still love their uptempo songs too.

Key Jams: “Colder Are My Nights” and “Release Your Love”

Life

Gladys Knight & The Pips recorded their next to last album together-continuing to work with Larkin Arnold as they had on their phenomenally successful previous album Visions. Leon Sylvers did a lot of the producing for an album that blends a charged up hard electro sound with the groups classic uptempo gospel/soul shuffles and cinematic ballads all given the mid 80’s sonic update.

Key Jams: “Strivin” and “Do You Wanna Have Some Fun”

It was Henrique who pointed out that,while on the way to work listening to it,that the lyrics to James Brown’s “Living In America” are from the viewpoint of a trucker. This was exciting for me as this was the first JB song I ever heard. Remember thinking he was a magician based on his pose for the cover. The “12 inch mixes includes a more industrial intro from producer Dan Hartman along with a great funkified instrumental.

Hearing Stanley Clarke do “Born In The U.S.A” in a Kurtis Blow style rap version gave no doubt as to the songs powerful anti war/pro working class sentiments than Bruce Springsteen’s original did when Ronald Reagan campaigned with the song. This 12″ inch expands on the songs re-sampled synthesized voices and bass lines on the extended mix.

Jermaine Jackson’s solo career during the early/mid 80’s in general is pretty underrated. He took a lot of musical chances that didn’t always get very noticed. This particular song has an industrial world funk sound,composed mostly in the pentatonic scale,similar to Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “neo geo” sound from the same era. The instrumental mix of this shows this off very well-just as much as the vocal versions shows off Jermaine’s flexible vocal range.

 

 

 

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Filed under 12 inch singles, 1985, Cherrelle, electro funk, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Isley Brothers, Jam & Lewis, James Brown, Jermaine Jackson, Mary Jane Girls, Rick James, Stanley Clarke, Uncategorized, Vinyl, Yellowjackets