Saturday's Summer Fun Jam at the Capital Centre produced some bad news and some good news for contemporary dance music. The bad news was that Rick James and Atlantic Starr reduced funk music to monotonous four-beat, mediocre singing. The good news was that Change and Frank Hooker spiced up modern soul with gospel-singing fervor and sleek sophistication.
The best band of the night was Change. This 11-member New York troupe churned up a wicked syncopation filled with secondary accents. The rhythm was strong but never predictable. The four singers blended sympathetically; Diva Gray and James Crabs Robinson soloed on "Stop for Love" with falsettos that didn't let up as they went up. Like Chic, Change created complex, expert music beneath a highly polished surface.
The biggest revelation was Washington's own Frank Hooker & The Positive People, who opened the show. They, too, enriched a contagious funk beat with aggressive guitar fills and thick organ strains. On their hit tune, "Ooh Suga Wooga," Hooker proved a strong soul singer with an expressive voice that exceeded the dance beat's demands.
The biggest disappointment was the headlining Rick James & The Stone City Band. They tried to blend heavy-metal rock and funk under the misleading title of punk-funk. They succeeded in uniting the worst features of both genres. Songs like "Super Freak" had the metallic plodding of hard rock and the mindless chanting of funk. James tried to camouflage his weak voice and tired music with flashy costumes and flashing props.