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For less than the ages

Certified Funky 2
Professor D and the Playschool

At certain population levels, people start to cluster their dwellings together; then they build walled villages, then big cities. Like roads and aqueducts, bands like Professor D and the Playschool come about when there are a certain number of people per square mile. Every city with a couple of its own TV stations has a band or two like them: busy, professional, and genuinely able. They play for people night after night, but somehow--despite the number of smiling faces they send home after each show--never seem to gain much critical respect.

It's usually not a question of skill, for bands that play that often usually have impressive chops. It's not about Professor D, aka Donnie Heyden, who started the band six years ago and has since steered it through weekends of steady gigging--to public, private, and corporate functions--and then on to opening gigs for acts like the Artist (formerly known as Prince), Cypress Hill, and Fleetwood Mac. It's not the music, which is precise, especially for a seven-piece band. CF2 has arrangements as sharp and shiny as anything on the radio. Professor D and company are clever incorporators. They take the basic dance-music platform and make it immediate and up-to-date by folding in currently popular flavors like house, techno, and even a bit of rap and hip-hop. The results are catchy and even--in the case of cuts like "She Gotta Lotta Boom Boom"--infectious. The group's two lead voices--Heyden and Dorie Love--vary their sound nicely. Love, in particular, can go from a multi-tracked evocation of the Temptations or Shirelles (or three RuPauls) to strong solos with definite diva flourishes.

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Perhaps the problem lies in the medium itself. You could look at clubland and the whole boogie-down ethos in its ritual light as a modern form of the Dionysian revelries: firmly entrenched in the now, mocking time by enjoying, even hastening its passage. Perhaps that's why the best dance-floor music always seems a bit decadent and heedless, which is fine for burning up time, but doesn't add up to much. Great dance music recognizes itself as echoing inside something like a modern cabaret, acknowledges the communication between the floor and the music, and uses that to address greater issues. Certified Funky 2 shows off all of the talents that a hard-working, regularly gigging group of musicians acquires over the passage of years. It is pointed, precise, and clever, but it can't overcome that last hurdle--to somehow still mean something after the album has stopped playing.

--Matt Weitz

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