Sunday, August 12, 2012

Was (Not Was) What Up, Dog? 1988

I pulled this out the other day, and I had forgotten what a fine, and fairly unique record it was. Starring producer Don Was (Fagenson) and David Was (Weiss) and the soulful vocals of "Sweet Pea" Atkinson and Harry Bowens, their records featured many guests to liven things up.

They are renowned for their eclectic sound, but the core is soul- some Philly, some Minneapolis (read Prince), and some funky Detroit.

The record opens with Somewhere In America There's A Street Named After My Dad, a soulful ghetto lament for a better life via the American dream, with jazzy trumpet and slinky backbeat. Prince-styled dance floor funk fills Out Come The Freaks, Robot Girl, and Boys Gone Crazy. Spy In The House Of Love is a blend of Philly soul and Earth, Wind and Fire disco, as is Walk The Dinosaur (their biggest hit). Hall and Oates' Philly soul sound is expressed in Love Can Be Bad Luck, Anything Can Happen, and Anytime Lisa. Shadow And Jimmy recalls the Drifters in boardwalk mode. Throw in a splendid cover of I Can't Turn You Loose, and a little lounge jazz with a Frank Sinatra Jr. guest vocal on Wedding Vows In Vegas, and the eclectic tag is easy to understand.

The lyrical quality is especially high (and frequently politically charged), and the playing and arrangements are tight and hot. Atkinson and Bowers are fine soul vocalists. The band has a wacky and sometimes bleak sense of humor that fits perfectly with the musical and social malaise that was the late 1980s. The late 80s weren't exactly music's finest hour, but this record certainly made up for some of that.

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