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RECORD RACK

Goose-stepping Funk

March 01, 1987|KRISTINE McKENNA

"SHEILA E." Sheila E. Warner Bros. You know those Crazy Eddies who drive around with the music in their cars cranked up to a bone-shattering decibel level? Sheila E. makes the kind of music that crowd loves. Big, brassy rhythm tracks matched with sexually suggestive lyrics that leave little to the imagination, this stuff is perfect for strutting down Broadway with a huge ghetto-blaster hoisted on your shoulder.

Sheila E. is an accomplished musician who's been performing since she was a child. However, it wasn't until Prince plucked her out of the chorus line and groomed her into a sort of female alter-ego that her career was kicked into hyperdrive.

With an image remarkably similar to that of the Purple Princeling--and to Grace Jones, from whom Prince no doubt learned a lot--Sheila E. comes on like a cool sexual renegade who challenges any wimpy dude who cares to try his luck at keeping up with her. "Sometimes I wanna beat you up--is that what you want?" she demands to know on a tune here called "Boys Club."

The follow-up to "Romance 1600," her commercial smash of last year, "Sheila E." refrains from tampering with the formula that's proven so profitable for this drum-whompin' miss, and the record should go down a storm on the aerobics circuit. Goose-stepping funk for hard-core party animals, "Sheila E." combines equal parts Latin, jazz, funk and pop, then tops off that polyrhythmic stew with wan, cooing vocals that float in and out of focus.

Repetitious in the extreme, "Sheila E." includes a number of cuts that sound great at maximum volume in a dance club but tend to evaporate on close examination. Essentially grooves and riffs puffed up to resemble songs, the tunes are more or less indistinguishable from one another (with the exception of "Soul Salsa," a composition that sticks to the basic guidelines of traditional salsa).

Her lyrics' central theme--her very raison d'etre-- is sex, a subject she handles with a leering vulgarity that again brings Prince to mind. That name just keeps coming up in relation to Sheila E., and truly her debt to him is too vast to measure. In fact, their music sounds virtually identical. There's no arguing that Sheila E. has learned her lessons well, but really, isn't one Prince more than enough?

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