Dee Dee Simon (New CD Review!)
December 1, 2021: Originally posted on Daddy B. Nice's New CD Reviews.
Various Artists: Winter Is Coming:A Southern Soul And Blues Queens’ Christmas (Various Publishers) Four Stars **** Distinguished effort. Should please old fans and gain new. Let me tell you how it all went down. I was at this concert in Henderson, Texas when the divas on this album wrestled me to the floor in the lobby in full view of three security officers (!) twisting my arm painfully while repeating, “You must write about Christmas!” I’ve been telling recording artists for years not to bother with Christmas music, not that I have anything against Christmas. It’s just fleeting---here one minute, gone the next---and I hate to see a good hook wasted on a song with such a temporary life span. The only Christmas song I can ever remember writing about was Pokey Bear and Crystal Thomas’s amazing duet on ”All I Want Is You,” but that was because I was so hypnotized by the vocals and instrumental track I wasn't paying attention to the lyrics and didn’t realize it was a Christmas song.
So that’s my disclaimer as I sit here listening to (and actually enjoying) “Queen’s Christmas,” and if you’re inclined to purchase a southern soul album with a little Christmas spirit this year, I can’t think of a better choice. Not only are a host of up-and-coming southern soul demoiselles represented---Carletta Bush, Donna Renae, Dee Dee Simon, Tara Keith, Sassy D, Jessi Terrell, Jinda Harris, Sojo The Ladies Champ and Diamond Dollaz---but the song sequence is buoyed by intro/shout-outs from southern soul deejays around the country---Lady C, DJ Vonn, Lady B, Lady Jock, Down South Diva Ms. Bambie, Melle Mel That Lady DJ, Jazzi A, Alisha Jay and Anjali Queen---who pump up the volume and spice up the already panoramic variety.
Sojo’s “So Good” fairly jumps out of the speakers with an appealing melody and memorable, harmonizing chorus that you'll be humming long after the CD ends. Sojo The Ladies Champ is the singer who debuted with Kinnie Ken on the impressive ”I Got That Good Good” a couple of years ago and followed it up this year with the steamy solo ballad ”Toes Curl”.
Listen to Sojo singing "So Good" on YouTube.
Carletta Bush’s “Christmas Slide” is a jam for any season---a stepping song that would stand on its own without the fairly superfluous “Christmas” tag. Donna Renae's "All I Want For Christmas" (not to be confused with fellow artist Donyale Renae) marks the return of an artist nominated for Best Debut of 2016 for "Steppin' Out". Before that she sang background on Unkle Eddie's "Crystal Delite". Tara Keith's "Holiday In Heaven" introduces a new artist with an impressive set of pipes on what may be the most romantic Yuletide track of the set.
Jinda Harris is on the cusp of genre recognition, marketing herself as The Lady Songbird Jinda. She brings a falsetto-scaled voice and special tone to "Dear Santa". And Diamond Dollaz, yet another new vocalist, closes out the album with the bonus track "You Ask Me". But there are many well-known artists as well, and just when you think the set might end, this CD keeps rolling.
Jesi Terrell, perhaps best known for "My Man Is A Full Grown Dawg", represents with "Secret Santa," a textbook case of Christmas on the down-low. Terrell is also known for her cover of Willie Clayton's "Love Mechnic" and her recent duet with Theo Huff, "Stay The Night".
The perennially busy Sassy D, who has impressive duets with Tucka, Arthur Young, Jeter Jones and Coldrank to her credit, holds forth here with "Santa Didn't Buy That," in which she complains that "Santa gets all the credit"... "We're the real Santas," she continues, "working to the bone, running up our credit cards".
Which brings us to Dee Dee Simon, the unifying force behind this Christmas-themed, all-woman sampler. A year ago, Dee Dee recorded "Divorce," a bittersweet holiday ode instructing her husband to take his TV and car; she'd keep the house---"of course". This Christmas isn't much better. She's still thinking about the divorce. Should she let her ex "stop over for Christmas"? What about the kids? It's a dash of sober reality delivered in a strangely anonymous vocal style, as if Dee Dee were too emotionally damaged to inject any of her identifying vocal mannerisms into the song.
What I mean by that is you wouldn't necessarily know it was Dee Dee singing. You get the power in the last half that we associate with Dee Dee, but not necessarily the inflections, tones, little tics and gimmicks that are unmiskably Dee Dee Simon, and which are so important for an artist's brand. And which---come to think of it---we have precious little of from Dee Dee. She should be releasing a lot more singles than she is, which again is ironic because she is one of the most driven women on the planet and she wrote all of the music on this Christmas album! Talk about giving away some of your best hooks.
“Winter Is Coming: Queen’s Christmas” wouldn't exist without Ms. Simon. The Queens Project started in 2020. Soliciting fellow artists for holiday-themed submissions, Dee Dee published two previous all-female sets. Last year's "Queens" featured, among others, Nellie "Tiger" Travis and Karen Wolfe. Unfortunately, "here today gone tomorrow," nothing of these two predecessor sets can be found online. They've vanished like last year's snow. So if you interested in this album, you'd better get it while you can. Like many Christmas projects, it's geared to fans of the artists and pressed copies are likely limited.
Simon wrote all the music on the album, then gathered the participating divas in Baton Rouge for four days of recording. 2 Buck Chuck, her worthy collaborator, produced all the tracks and took them back to California for mixing and mastering. The copyright credits belong to Babyboy Publishing, Katheryn Charlene Publishing, in association with the independent artist publishing entities featured on each track.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
---Daddy B. Nice
Buy "Winter Is Coming:A Southern Soul And Blues Queens’ Christmas" at PayHip.
August 2, 2020:
Watch Dee Dee Simon's new virtual concert on YouTube.
June 1, 2020:
NEW ALBUM ALERT!:
Buy Dee Dee Simon's new southern soul debut album AHH HELL QUEEN DEE at Payhip.
AHH HELL QUEEN DEE Track List:
Dee Dee Slide
Walk That Dog
I Can't Leave Him Alone
Put It On Him
Shake That Derrier
Standing On Top
Daddy B. Nice notes:If there were any doubts about Dee Dee Simon's urban-vocalist pedigree, know that she starred as Whitney Houston in at least two live shows titled "Whitney: 'One Moment In Time'". This is by way of introducing the New CD Review of Dee Dee Simon's Ahh Hell Queen Dee!, in which Daddy B Nice steps onto the Dee Dee Simon bandwagon but pauses and decides to think it over. Scroll down.
Buy Dee Dee Simon's debut album AHH HELL QUEEN DEE at Payhip.
Originally posted in Daddy B Nice's New CD Reviews:
June 1, 2020:
DEE DEE SIMON: Ahh Hell Queen Dee (Dream, Babyboy Publishing, Charlene Music Publishing)
As southern soul music grows in popularity, more aspiring R&B artists are casting inquisitive glances at the sub-genre and thinking about the possibilities. Right now southern soul has the insider buzz of early Motown. After all, it is a "smaller pond" than mainstream R&B in which to become a "big fish".
Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy.
If that sounds cynical, it's not meant to be. Disappointment is more appropriate. Attracting performers who might otherwise be making it (or trying to make it) on the urban and hiphop circuits is a boon in talent for southern soul music, but there’s a down side. We now have to worry about losing those artists.
Of course, when you talk about artists crossing from previous genres, the majority of southern soul artists who leave go back to gospel, like Al Green and Peggy Scott-Adams. But now we're beginning to see young people crossover from urban/hiphop to southern soul and vice versa.
Dee Dee Simon's "Walk That Dog" (#6 February 2019) and "Big Gun" (#9 September 2019) both charted here and might have been ranked higher, were it not for their very facility and ease of technique raising a red flag. Would the five-octave, already-much-decorated Simon get stuck in that revolving "crossover" door?
Dee Dee Simon made an impression with southern soul fans not only for her vocal agility, but with the great voice-overs in "Big Gun" and "Walk That Dog" ("I don't want no dog/ That's been in every yard/ You know what I'm sayin'?") She seemed instantly comfortable in the genre's patois. In heft, clarity and directness, Simon was reminiscent of a young Sheba Potts-Wright; in her smooth delivery, Sweet Angel.
But right now I'd rate the chances of Dee Dee Simon staying with southern soul slim. Her most recent singles are solid urban-smooth. Dee Dee is a musical friend of 2 Buck Chuck, who gained favorable review here a couple of years ago, during which time he reverted to an urban format in a subsequent release. The review was a cautionary one, praising his "2 Buck Chuck" debut EP and urging him to stick with the southern soul. Sadly, he hasn't released any southern soul since.
Dee Dee's new single, ”Halfway,” is definitely and definitively not southern soul. It's not on Dee Dee's new album, Ahh Hell Queen Dee, and that's good because the contrast in styles is stark. But what will surprise avid southern soul fans about this album is the mingling of two styles--southern soul and urban/electronic/funk--that beget distinctly opposing audiences. If you want melody, story and heart, you go to southern soul. If you want technically-impressive vocals and state-of-the-art instrumental tracks, you go to mainstream R&B. The two don't mix: they're like oil and water.
However, Dee Dee Simon has another song, "Da Fire," that straddles both styles and just missed coming in with a number-one bullet on the southern soul charts earlier this year:
Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles For. . .
2. "Da Fire"-----Dee Dee Simon
The multi-talented Bay area diva strikes gold with an Isley-inspired tune instructing her enamored to "Put your wood in my fire/ 'Cause, baby, my flame is running low."
Listen to Dee Dee Simon singing "Da Fire" on YouTube.
In April of this year Arthur Young was awarded a 4-star review for his four-song "Funky Forty" debut EP, and that was largely on the basis of only two tremendously popular songs, "Funky Forty" and "Stroking". If Dee Dee Simon had released a similarly scaled-down EP, including "Big Gun," "Walk That Dog," "Upgrade" and the extraordinary "Da Fire" instead of the album she did put out, the ten-song CD Ahh Hell Queen Dee, she would have garnered a 4-star-- perhaps even a 5-star rating.
What ruins Simon's much-hyped and long-awaited CD--for southern soul fans, at least--is the inclusion of incompatible material. I was actually doubly disappointed: first, because there are no new southern soul tunes of note (with one exception to be discussed later); and second, because I was under the impression Ahh Hell Queen Dee would be a southern soul debut. The tunes I already knew as successful southern soul singles are there, intact, but what I expected to be a bagful of new southern soul singles turns out to be something quite different.
Personally, your Daddy B. Nice would like to prescribe Dee Dee Simon a daily afternoon dose of southern soul radio. But here I'm betraying my annoyance with trying to play the CD as a whole, the same irritation I presume is experienced by the die-hard, urban-funk fan who doesn't want to hear any southern soul. The point is, it would have been far better for Dee Dee to present her southern soul songs in a generous EP and throw everything else out. (Or if that's a little harsh. Package for a different audience?)
"Dee Dee Slide" samples an early--almost Sugarhill-early--era rap. It's Afrika Bambaataa-percussive. It doesn't work as southern soul, and it's no fun to listen to, unless you're into history. "I Can't Leave Him Alone" is terrible. Who needs to live 80's and 90's funk over again? It's like Dee Dee has lifted her backing band out of a time capsule.
"Put It On Him" is the one new song that might qualify as a southern soul single. Dee Dee can sing southern soul when she puts her mind to it. Both the foreground and background vocal tracks are excellent. Like the other "greats" (chops-wise) before her, she's restrained (think Bobby Blue Bland), leaving her technique and power implied. And not to forget: the light zydeco button accordion is an endearing touch.
But then, back to the common-denominator funk with "Slow Motion". Again, the listener is yanked into another musical genre--with a backing band so vintage it's wrapped in vacuum-seal. "Shake That Derrier" is more of the same, a smooth-jazzy, percussive arrangement and a slick, urban vocal. Funk inspiration doesn't have to come this freeze-dried.
For a look at a tune that qualifies as southern soul because it is doing something original with "funk," check out Chrissy Luvz's new jam, "I Sing Da Blues". Of course, an even more well-known example of funk transformed into southern soul, (and one composed by a legendary southern soul songwriter, Floyd Hamberlin), is Nellie "Tiger" Travis's "Mr. Sexy Man". It can be done.
But in the end, to cross-over and back-and-forth with urban/smooth and urban/funk betrays an underlying disrespect for southern soul music. Like, what? You can't get a whole album of southern soul together? With her formidable talents, Dee Dee Simon could easily do just about any southern soul LP project imaginable. The only new song on Ahh Hell Queen Dee that truly qualifies as southern soul, "Put It On Him," more than proves that.
--Daddy B. Nice
Buy Dee Dee Simon's new southern soul debut album AHH HELL QUEEN DEE at Payhip.
Send CD's to Daddy B. Nice, P. O. Box 19574, Boulder, Colorado, 80308 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to be eligible for review on this page.
--Daddy B. Nice