Crystal Waters never got the attention she deserved with "Come On Down," last year's fun-filled song based on the over-the-top The Price Is Right game show theme. Waters, the Howard University grad who had a string of playful, catchy dance songs in the 1990s ("100 Percent Pure Love," "Gypsy Woman," "Say…If You Feel Alright"), has a scratchy, robust alto voice that spreads charm over often cheesy yet inspired and always likeable melodies. Now she's back again with "Enough," a song that isn't cheesy and in every way is pleasing. "It's never enough" though, since you'll be lucky to hear it anywhere, and not just because of her label's obviously poor publicity machine.
Strictly Rhythm, Waters' current label, shut down three weeks ago, taking the artist and her yet-to-be-released single with it -- along with Ultra Nate, Reina, Abigail, Duane Harden, Andrea Brown and others. Meanwhile, Strictly Rhythm's Groovilicious Music division had just released DJ Escape's Party Music 2003 -- four months ahead of the calendar. Did they anticipate foreclosure? Truth is, this was to be part one of two, with the second for release in February. The CD is a typical collection of hit dance songs, of which we've seen several good ones lately from various labels. This is the best of the bunch.
"I Feel So Fine" by K.M.C. featuring Dhany is just one aptly titled standout here. The beautiful, intensely affecting song offers remarkable contrasts: sad, minor-key melody and bass juxtaposed by happy, trance-ish keyboard elements, and dispassionate vocals spouting ecstatic, flirtatious lyrics. Other hightlights include "The More I Love You," "Something" and "Safe from Harm." So from Strictly Rhythm, this is "The Sound of Goodbye." As Perpetual Dreamer tells it in this, another great moody track on the CD, "it's louder than any drumbeat."
Strictly Rhythm was the rare label that spent quality time producing mix CDs, bucking the common practice of simply piling up tracks we've heard too many times before, or, worse, tracks we'd never want to hear in the first place. Clearly the behavior appeals to some, since we wouldn't encounter these CDs if they didn't sell. How else to account for the popularity of DJ Dan, for example?
Dan's latest mix CD, Round Trip, is a departure from his usual house music funkiness, but then again this elliptical DJ has never been one for much melody. On Round Trip, he throws tracks together that are characterized by little else than repetitious noise, all in an attempt to emulate travel -- "trains, planes, subway" to be exact, with all kinds of technical gimmicks and other disturbances (car horns, weed whackers, shrill blips and pings).
The first CD ends with a screech and a halt, as this train rolls into the station. But our journey is only half over, with a full second CD to go. We wanted off this train even before the woman's screams of Player's "Rub On Your Titties." You can hear your standards dropping as the annoying, uncontrolled laughing from the hyper girl in Czar & Ito's "Soiree" on CD two actually turns amusing. Nothing progresses quickly with DJ Dan's Movers and Co., and we're already in quite a stupor by the time Tony Thomas tries to stir us with the incessantly monotonous "Big Stepper." It hardly makes you want to step out and make a move. Except to turn it off.