(“Do You Dare”, 1982)
1. Do You Dare
3. Attitude (Instrumental)
Source: Vinyl 12″
Format: V0 VBR MP3 (FLAC Lossless Available On Request)
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Alexander O’Neal rose out of the Minneapolis scene late in 1985 with his smash “Innocent” and a top-10 R&B duet with Cherrelle, “Saturday Love”, produced by Time exiles Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who were slowly but surely making themselves household names in the industry. This led to a well-known partnership from which one of the finest R&B records of all time, 1987’s Hearsay was created. O’Neal rode a legendary concert series at Wembley Arena (in which he was the first Black artist to ever sell-out six straight consecutive nights) to an extension of his career in the UK, where he eventually became more popular than he ever had been in the States. O’Neal has even been a subject of TVOne’s award-winning program Unsung, in which more details of his early life and life after the heights of fame were revealed, including an unfortunate history of substance abuse that might have had a lot more to do with his decline than the shifting winds of R&B music.
The story of Alexander O’Neal is usually told as such: Once a lead vocalist in Jam and Lewis’s band Flyte Tyme, O’Neal was tapped to lead Prince’s offshoot band The Time by its members. However, a dispute over payment forced O’Neal out of the band. When Jam and Lewis were ousted from The Time, they first landed in L.A., and were tapped to join the SOLAR Records stable, but eventually found their way to Clarence Avant’s Tabu imprint, where they provided some compositions (see: “High Hopes” by the S.O.S. Band) and productions to artists thereabouts. When they were tapped by Avant to bring some new talent to the fold, they remembered O’Neal — and the rest of history.
What isn’t well known is the period right after O’Neal’s removal from The Time and before he reunited with Jam and Lewis in 1985; during this period, O’Neal moonlighted in the Minneapolis music scene and recorded a couple of sides that were pressed up by record labels in Chicago. Of these, 1982’s “Do You Dare” (originally released on Chicago-area label Erect) and 1983’s “Attitude” (released on the Rich label), both released under the name “Alexander” resemble more of what a Time lead by O’Neal might sound like.
“Do You Dare” is a floor-stomper that sounds like the cutting edge of R&B music in 1982, and the novelty of it mostly comes from hearing O’Neal’s voice on something of that vintage. The chorus is infectious, and O’Neal’s barking toward the tail end of the record (a later hallmark of Jam/Lewis records) is entertaining, to say the least. Chris Moon (a Minneapolis-area producer who figured in the early career of Prince) has a writing credit. “Attitude” is certainly more of the flavor of records that were released in reaction to the records (and stage show) of The Time, but its most interesting feature is a totally-’80s guitar solo that (according to Alex) is the handiwork of one Jesse Johnson. O’Neal even went on to say it was the “best guitar solo Jesse Johnson ever played”. “Playroom”, which is included in both singles, is more of an indication of what Alexander O’Neal would have been as a solo artist. This slow, building ballad does have some of the familiar synth (string) garnish of Prince and friends, but is generally more restrained and conventional.
It’s worth it to mention that the “Alexander” logo/script that is printed on the “Attitude” 12″ single, is the same logo/script for his name that is used heavily in the promotional videos/material for Alexander O’Neal’s first album, particularly the “Innocent” video.