Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Dream Team Gets Serious

Well, one half of The LA Dream Team gets serious, anyway. I already blogged about how Rudy Pardee kept the Team alive by releasing a record after they were dropped by MCA Records and Snake Puppy quit. But Rudy flew solo - or, at least, without his partner Snake - one other time; long before their time at MCA was up.

It was actually the year they made the jump from Macola Records to MCA. Freshly signed to a major, times were good for the Dream Team in 1986, but they were not so good for a large portion of the rest of the world. So Rudy agreed to lend his voice to a record that spoke up about it: "Apartheid (You Know It's a Crime!!)."

The record is actually credited to a pair of unknowns: C. Chris and Rich E. Rich, featuring Rudy Pardee. It's also produced by, as far as I know, a complete unknown named Pedie Cooper. In fact, it really seems to be Pedie's baby. Besides being the producer, he gets sole writing credit for the record, and the back cover writes out the lyrics where it again specifically credits that this is "by Pedie Cooper." As far as I know, neither Cooper nor the team of Chris and Rich went on to do anything else in the industry; and yet this was released on MCA Records. Did Pardee get his label to release this? Or is this record what wound up getting the Dream Team signed? I'm really not sure. But it's interesting to note that the lyrics are given a separate, earlier copyright of 1985, which means they were at least written before the Dream Team signed..

It all leaves us with a pretty unusual record. It's got a serious message, obviously; but the tone is pretty light. First of all, it's got a very 80's pop sound to it, not dissimilar from The Dream Team's MCA stuff, there's even an uncredited disco-style female singer who sounds rather cheerful as she repeatedly enunciates the title for the chorus. Rudy. Chris and Rich were doing that very popular in the 80s style of having all the MCs rhyme on all the verses, so they're constantly finishing each other's sentences or saying phrases in unison. And anyone familiar with The Dream Team knows Rudy's voice and flow are anything but somber; and he hasn't changed anything for this record.

And to top it all off, there's a silly Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood style opening, where a happy man tells us that "today's word is 'apartheid.' Can you say 'apartheid?' I knew you could..." This is all set to the whimsical notes of a music box until the big, punchy 80's production kicks in when the intro's over and it's time to rock.

I guess the idea was to combine a heaping dose of sugar with the medicine, so kids would buy this record and hear its message? If so, the dramatic, solid red picture cover doesn't seem to be in on the plan. The lyrics are effective and painting a vivid and very serious picture ("they have to carry passes just to walk down the street, and if they are caught after dark, you know they get beat"), but they're also clearly not written by an experienced songwriter, with stilted phrasing forced into the bars, and rhymes that just don't rhyme... You can hear the MCs change their pronunciation to try to make "you have heard" with "Africa" or "worse than dirt" with "to protest;" but there's no saving it. They're not even close to rhyming.

But for all those issues, there's just as much here that works. The production's actually good; and Pardee has a great voice, which is well suited for this kind of instrumental. Lyrically, it hits as often as it misses, and obviously its heart is in the right place. It's hard to know quite what to make of this 12" - there's nothing else on here but an Instrumental and Bonus Beats - except that it's the veritable dictionary definition of an 80's artifact, and another interesting little point in the Dream Team's saga.

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