1. Let’s Go Out
2. Don’t Go
3. Slow Down
4. Walk The Streets
5. Get Off
6. I Want To Know Your Name
Source: Vinyl LP
Format: VBR V0 MP3 (FLAC Lossless Format Available Upon Request)
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The phenomenon that was Prince in the early 1980s sent shockwaves through the music industry, across genres, but especially in the R&B sector. Somehow, the audience wasn’t much bothered by Prince’s “pouty girl” vocals, line-crossing lyrics, bizarre appearance (he had, at one point, gone from wearing a feathered coiffure ala Farrah Fawcett, to dressing like a vagrant who looked like he might flash you on the street), and what have you, since the music was so strongly produced, and well-executed that its hallmarks sunk deeply into its conscience for much of the years between his Rolling Stone critical darling, Dirty Mind and the advent of New Jack Swing in the tail end of the decade.
Of all the media markets around the United States, outside of Prince’s hometown of Minneapolis, often treated to exclusive concerts in the city, and the expected “big time” outposts, few places embraced the Prince phenomenon as much as Detroit. The Midwest in general was one of the first regions of the country to “get” the mini-maestro’s strange mix of rock, soul, and everything in-between, but Detroit, a city with a rich musical history, truly embraced Prince as if he were one of their own. Not just Prince, but his supporting and related acts were heavily pushed on Detroit radio, especially The Time, Morris Day’s infamous band with what today seems like an impossible combination of future super-producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and guitar GOD (caps for a reason) Jesse Johnson. This was the work of The Electrifying Mojo, a legendary on-air personality who is largely credited for building the techno genre, and known for his eclectic playlists — very much in line with the collective musical stew that birthed “Prince” as we know him in the first place. In The Doc’s estimation, Mojo’s work on the air is but evidence that the corporate streamlining of terrestrial radio did more to kill the industry than any degree of bootlegging ever could.
With both Prince and The Time’s growing popularity, particularly on radio stations that served majority Black listeners, came a new breed of bands eager to duplicate their success (some going above and beyond the call of “duplication”). One of these bands was the Detroit quintet Dreamboy, who scored a deal with Quincy Jones’s Qwest imprint in 1983. The band’s nucleus was its lead singer/keyboardist/guitarist Jeffrey Stanton, who on their inaugural EP, provided all the songwriting. Flanking him were bassist/vocalist Paul Stewart, Jr., guitarist/vocalist Jeff Bass (who much later in life, resurfaced as a producer for another famous Detroit product — namely Eminem), keyboardist Jimi “Boxx” Hunt, and drummer/percussionist George Dewey Twymon.
At first listen, their eponymous EP brings a certain band to mind moreso than The Time — namely, Ready For The World, who hailed from nearby Flint, Michigan, and actually debuted some time after Dreamboy in 1984. In that vein, with Stanton’s rather “Princely” vocals, and the more pop-oriented lyrics you could say a new style of R&B music obviously inspired by Prince but aimed at much younger (read: teenaged) listeners was beginning to form, that leaned heavily on whining their way to the young girls they were hoping to bring to the shows. However, while this was at times a humorous side note (particularly in how Jeff Stanton calls out the names of his band members during solo parts in a nod to Morris Day), the music Dreamboy offers as an introduction is strong if only because they don’t go the extra mile in imitating Prince beyond the vocals and actually puts an original spin on the idea for much of the short run of this mini-album.
Particularly striking is “Walk The Streets”, which involves a rather Stanley Clarke-ish bass guitar solo from Stewart, and provides the most original groove in the set. The slow-walking, early ’80s groove is devoid of the wanna-be Linn Drum retreads, and more in line with what other more established bands were doing in the time period instead of attempting to minimize the individual pieces of the groove, only to come up short. The opener “Let’s Go Out” might remind you of Prince’s “Delirious” with its new-wave leanings, but is more bubblegum than anything else on the record. “Slow Down” and “Get Off” are sweaty workouts in the same vein, “Don’t Go” is a much more innocent slow number that brings The Time’s “Oh, Baby” to mind, and the one song of theirs that is best remembered from this set. However, the keeper is the closing number, “I Want To Know Your Name”. Dreamboy excelled at slower numbers such as these, but like “Walk The Streets”, this is quite original, and hits the early ’80s-before-crossover-fever-corrupted-R&B sweet spot in a number of ways, including a deep breakdown anchored by a very appropriate synthesizer texture. Listening to this track at night might make you think that fastback Chevrolet Cavaliers might be back on the road.
Dreamboy’s EP and its followup, 1984’s Contact faded into R&B obscurity as their oft-compared act, Ready For The World, enjoyed better promotion (and a much bigger and timely hit), but managed to at least score the moral victory of somehow forging a distinct musical identity under the thin veil of using Prince as an inspiration. For those that remember them, it’s almost always fondly; perhaps, as it has for many in the same boat, this record and the LP that followed could be blessed with a second lease on life by the mighty reissue gods. Until then, The Doc’s got you covered.