The live funk band died (at least commercially) back in the mid Eighties, after Prince proved that you could replicate the sound of 8 men with a synthesizer. This coincided with a decline in fortunes for many of the large funk bands that had been popular in the previous decade. Even the funk bands that stuck around, like Cameo, underwent a drastic reduction in personnel. The days of TV variety shows having to build extra stage to fit the members of a soul/funk band were long over by the time 1990 rolled around.
Only a couple of bands were able to break through the early-Nineties crowded field of new jack swing singers and harmonizing groups. Mint Condition survived under the tutelage of Jam and Lewis (and still make solid records to this day), and Tony! Toni! Tone! had almost a decade in the sun (and actually got better with time) until Raphael Saadiq decided to break South at the end of the decade. One band that should have definitely been bigger than they wound up being was North Carolina’s Dag. Don’t let the quartet of palefaces fool you-these cats put down one of the stankiest funk albums of the decade with 1994’s “Righteous”.
There are some bands that are fantastic live but can’t make the connection when it comes to recording their material. There are some bands who are fantastic on record but suck live. Then, there are some bands whose records are so good you wish you could’ve seen them live. Dag definitely falls into the latter category for me. I bet these cats would have kicked all kinds of ass. “Righteous” is the work of a band whose spent some time honing their craft on the road-it has a live band feel that was missing from a shit-ton of soul music back in the Nineties. Hell, it’s still absent today.
The obvious comparisons that can be made in 2010 would be to Jamiroquai and Maroon 5, two white bands that dabble heavily in a soul-based sound. While Jamiroquai and Dag borrow heavily from the same era of music, Jamiroquai’s more glittering disco-recalling bands like Skyy or Dynasty. Dag is definitely more on the funk tip. The ascending horns of “Even So” recall peak-era Earth Wind & Fire, while the sexy ballad “You Can Lick It (If You Try)” sounds like something Prince would have maybe put together for The Time. As far as Adam Levine and his crew goes; hey, I like Maroon 5, but “Righteous” is the type of album Maroon 5 wish they could make (and they probably could if Adam Levine wasn’t so deadset on being a pop star). There’s also the fact that M5’s breakthrough single, “Harder to Breathe”, sounds a lot like the first full track on “Righteous”, “Sweet Little Lass”.
These guys had the whole package-a solid vocalist in Bobby Patterson (maybe a little more nasal than the average funk vocalist, but he had a good handle on the falsetto), lyrics that were sly and just a bit eye-rolling (at least to me-when I hear “Sweet Little Lass”, I don’t think the “l” in the last word of the title is really meant to be there), and a major label contract with Columbia. The fact that this album wasn’t a huge success is sort of a mystery to me, although I’m sure the idea of a band of white boys playing funk in the height of the grunge era was a bit weird. What killed Dag’s cause even more was that four years went by before their follow up was released, and in that time, the band had undergone a face lift, becoming a multi-racial, unisex outfit. I’m not sure what the band is doing these days, but if they decide to do any comeback shows, let’s hope they make it around this area. I need some funk in my life.
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