OH HOW EASILY an inspired hybrid of funk and rock can degenerate into a collection of cliches -- each attached to a different electronic sound effect.
Mazarati, the latest spin-off from the Prince empire, has reduced the Prince sound to a set of pat moves, each with a recognizable bit of synthesizer fill or guitar flash. The group tries to disguise its lack of a real singer by sending the vocals through electronic treatments. Zapp, which originally spun off from the George Clinton/Bootsy Collins empire, has done much the same with its legacy.
Mazarati, a septet of newcomers, is the pet project of Prince's bass player, Brown Mark, who wrote all the songs except the one Prince contribution. Under these circumstances, it's not surprising that the backing tracks sound solid and authentic, while the vocas and solos sound as if Mazarati were imitating Ready for the World imitating the Time imitating Prince.
The first single, "Player's Ball," is a one-riff party song, while the album's catchiest tune, Prince's "100 M.P.H.," goes on far longer than it should. Last year's album by Family was a much more imaginative variation on the Minneapolis sound.
The Dayton band Zapp is named for Zapp Troutman, though his brother Roger Troutman (who also records as just "Roger") writes and produces most of the material. Four Troutman brothers in all perform on "The New Zapp IV U," which attempts to pay tribute to black music history. The first single, "It Doesn't Really Matter," runs a roster of soul acts from James Brown to the Gap Band, but the title describes the song all too well. A remake of the Flamingos' doo-wop classic, "I Only Have Eyes For You," is turned into a trite joke by Roger's electronically distorted vocals. Zapp's new single, "Computer Love," sums up its approach of turning soul music into the aural equivalent of a video arcade game.
MAZARATI -- "Mazarati" (Paisley Park/Warner Brothers 1-25368).
ZAPP -- "The New Zapp IV U" (Warner Brothers 25327- 1)