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Record Rack

Was (not Was)

December 18, 1988|DON WALLER

"What Up, Dog?" Chrysalis ***

As conceptualism goes, this mutant brainchild of Dee-troit unbrothers David and Don Was is semi-brilliant, taking something from everybody who ever contributed anything to the Murder City's rich musical heritage (Motown, P-Funk, jazz, the MC5/John Sinclair, '60s avant-garde) and mostly turning it into contemporary dance music that jams, jives, jellies and jibes.

With super-fine vocalists Sweet Pea Atkinson and Sir Harry Bowens doin' their respective Kendricks and Ruffin thangs, such groovealacious funkasauri as "Walk the Dinosaur," the semi-hit single "Spy in the House of Love" and the updated revision of the act's '81 opus delecti "Out Come the Freaks" are guaranteed to keep mirrored balls spinning and pina coladas pouring in Clubland until George Bush adopts "revenue enhancements."

Augmented by a plethora of guest musicians, the group's core four also essay a slew of R&B slowies, of which "Shadow & Jimmy"--a Drifters-style romantic ballad of loneliness and machismo co-written by little Elvis Costello--is ab-soul-ute genius. Some pointedly political material and brief recitatives set to jazz motifs flesh out the LP. Not all 13 songs work, but when they do, the result is as funky as these urban verbs obviously wanna-be.

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