DAYTON'S TROUTMAN BROTHERS -- Roger, Zapp, Larry and Lester -- grew up under the influence of southeastern Ohio's funk tradition: James Brown, Bootsy Collins and the Ohio Players.
The Troutmans have written, played and produced on records by everyone from Zapp to Dayton and Shirley Murdoch, but their most successful collaboration yet is the new Roger album (when he solos, it's first name only), "Unlimited." This record minimizes the Troutman clan's fondness for gimmicks and maximizes their considerable musical creativity.
Roger Troutman's favorite gimmick is the vocorder, which gives vocals a synthesized, robot-like quality. He uses it for a quirky, sci-fi tribute to the Godfather of Funk on James Brown's "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." He uses it sparingly on his new hit single, the ballad "I Want To Be Your Man," which effectively balances the studio effects against the strong melody and strong performances.
The song is reprised at the end of the record with doo-wop harmonies and a sparkling jazz guitar solo by Roger Troutman. Hip-hop stutters, a cinematic montage of voices and a lean funk groove all contribute to the ambitious anti-drug song, "Thrill Seekers." There's nothing profound or experimental on this album, but commercial rhythm & blues doesn't get much better, and the Troutmans have never shown off their considerable talents to better advantage.
Like Alfa Anderson, the forgotten lead singer from Chic, Joyce Sims is just an instrument in the hands of a disco production team. Sims' voice is an appealing instrument, but her producers, Mantronik and Robbie Watson, lack the rhythmic imagination of Chic's Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards. Sims' 12-inch dance hit, "Come Into My Life," is initially catchy but soon wears thin as does the rest of her eight-song album of the same name. ROGER -- "Unlimited" (Reprise 9 25496-1). JOYCE SIMS -- "Come Into My Life" (Sleeping Bag TLX 10). Roger and Zapp Troutman, Joyce Sims and the Force MDs appearing Saturday at the Warner Theater.