1. Player’s Ball
2. Lonely Girl On Bourbon Street
3. 100 MPH
4. She’s Just That Kind Of Lady
7. Strawberry Lover
8. I Guess It’s All Over
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One of the earliest releases on “That Guy’s” Paisley Park imprint, this band out of Minneapolis made a mark with “Player’s Ball”, with a look (and sound) that only the post-“That Guy” 1980s could bring. Jheri Curls, paisley print, make up, guitar, and synthesizers everywhere. Now, if all of that scares you away, you might want to hit the back button on your browser right now. If you’re a fan of R&B’s “Hair Band” era, this is for you. The truth of Mazarati is that they were actually a real tough band: a number of their unreleased songs circulates across the Internet, and while very much entrenched in the “Minneapolis” sound, they could really hang with the likes of The Time in the way Exotic Storm and say… Ebonee Webb at their most Allen A. Jones, proto-Pharrell/Thicke songjacking-est could not. Of course it didn’t hurt that for this release, they had the backing of “That Guy” and one of his most underrated bandmembers, bassist Mark Brown (better known by the slightly unfortunate handle “BrownMark”), both of whom assumed production duties (credited and otherwise).
From “That Guy” they get the stomping “100 MPH” (which has a very curious quote of The Time’s “Cool” within), but they actually had more on deck: “Jerk Out”, which was a hit for The Time when they reunited briefly in 1990, was recorded by the band in its original form, with some strikingly different lyrics, and a lead vocal from Tony Christian (the group’s front man was Sir Casey Terry). It is said that Morris Day was not cool with the original lyrics, which include the following: “How come people in your neighborhood don’t like it when a brother’s rich?/Ain’t my blood the same color as yours? Answer that question, bitch”. For 1985 (when that song was recorded), to say that would have caused some degree of moral panic is an understatement, considering what the (relatively tame) lyrics of “That Guy” caused among “concerned parents”, which is less to say for 1981, when they were reportedly conceived in the first place. All things considered, though that song was a #1 R&B hit in the end, I would have loved to see the look on people’s faces if Morris had dropped that line on The Time’s golden What Time Is It? album. Mazarati also notoriously took a little song called “Kiss”, penned by That Guy, from its original form, and after That Guy had heard it, having learned his lesson with songs such as “777-9311”, snatched it right back and made it a much-needed smash hit for himself.
The remainder of the album is high-class “Minneapolis” — careful, minimalist synthesizer, distorted guitar, the sound of the Linn Drum, and the bass popping right where it needs to (likely a product of Brownmark’s oversight). Sir Casey Terry’s vocal is right on time, and on the low, this band has a habit of sprinkling a little bit of humor into their lyrics (the “I just dress that way” line on “Player’s Ball”, and the mildly politically incorrect “Suzy” come to mind). “She’s Just That Kind of Lady” sounds a lot like what today’s funksters, inspired by the work of “That Guy” and his progeny cook up, “Stroke” stomps mightily, and “I Guess It’s All Over” is a great closer with a killer bassline.
Why Mazarati never really made too much of a dent beyond the association of That Guy likely has to do with changing tastes in the R&B listening scene. Though in 1986, there were still a great number of acts trying to ride that wave (if only in appearance — take a look at the cover of Midnight Star’s Headlines album from the same year sometime), it was the tail end of that wave. A new wave was coming, partly ushered in by the momentum of another duo from Minneapolis (namely, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, exiled from The Time some years earlier), and also with the brief, but blissful New Jack Swing phenomenon. Even “That Guy” had a hard time keeping his “special projects” together. Mazarati did try once more to get a foot in the door, yet nothing really materialized; they can still look back on this album and be proud they didn’t put out a clunker in the sonic sense, however.