Around 1990 Candy Dulfer was having a moment. She had been doing session work with Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics and it had resulted in a charming wee instrumental called Lily Was Here – for a film of the same name. The song, barely a song – just a floaty little motif – charted. Was a hit. Oddly. And was also the first thing that Dulfer played on – her father’s a Dutch jazz legend and she grew up playing sax from the age of about five. Her dad is still playing. So is Candy.
In the late 1980s Prince spotted her talent had her jam on stage with him, had her in the Partyman video and a year later she was releasing her own material and was on stage killing it with Pink Floyd at Knebworth. It seemed to all just happen. Of course there was all the hours of hard work and dedication. Learning her instrument and perfecting the craft. But in the late 80s and early 90s her star was rising and some big-name players were there to help her; they saw the potential, they knew she was good. It carried on – in 1993 she was on tour with Van Morrison and appears on one of his great live albums. In 2004 Prince had her on tour with him for his Musicology tour. She was playing second fiddle to Maceo Parker (no one better to be the first fiddle, no one better to do that job). LOOK! They absolutely rule – both of them! (All of them actually. Everyone on that stage).
So what a run eh – and Candy’s still making albums. I check them out now and then.
I loved her debut record, Saxuality. But I always hated the title. Always. Now someone might wanna knock me off my perch and tell me that so what, she owned the title, she chose it, it’s cool and sassy (saxy) and it’s fun. But it reminds me of another Prince protégé and another entry in this crap albums series – Sheila E’s Sex Cymbal. And, holy shit, I’ve just gone back and read that link – when I wrote about Sheila’s record I was thinking about Candy’s album. Both title bugged me. And still do. But the music on the albums is good. I like it. That’s the annoyance. Owning the sexuality is one thing – but being held up and paraded around by it, due to marketing hacks most likely…that stinks.
The title track of Candy’s debut has a computer-slurred male voice saying, “I know she looks good – but can she play?” Again, someone else’s interpretation is that’s her owning the situation and answering a dumb question by playing the hell out of her instrument. But, why did that have to be the case. Po-faced pop and jazz albums by female musicians get ignored, or earn the artist a title of being difficult or serious or grumpy or something absurd. But a gimmick is a gimmick is a gimmick.
Now, I listen to Saxuality in 2021 and it has dated horrendously – as almost all late-80s/early-90s jazz has. But alongside things like the acid-jazz of Buckshot LeFonque, the Latin-funk and R’n’B of Sheila E. and some of the early conscious hip-hop of the period maybe Dulfer comes out on top.
There are things you’re not going to like though – covering Miles Davis’ So What in a funky style with a voiceover fresh from In Living Colour shooting the song’s title as some sort of declaration. I mean it’s naff-af. But the playing…it does hold up.
Maybe I shouldn’t be fighting a fight for Dulfer, and a fight that’s not there but I always wondered why this had to be a thing. I mean as late as 2007 she had an album called Candy Store. For fuck’s safe. That’s not to mention more from the discography such as Sax-A-Go-Go, Big Girl, Girls Night Out and Funked Up. Pfff…
Great playing, shit titles.
I can relax a bit more now cos everything is a mixtape but back when I was collecting albums I sold my copy of Saxuality because of the awful fucking title. And how it made me feel. Like a class musician was cheapening herself, was made to belittle her talents by playing along to some suit’s idea of a groovy-good name for an album. That title and her picture on the cover might sell a few more units to people that don’t even like jazz and/or saxophones eh. That used to rage up under my collar some.
I bought this album for the song Lily Was Here – it was on some versions of the album, but not all. That was my entry, the reason I took a ticket. And I stayed for the music not the album title. And I keep coming back to hear it again and thinking it’s a bloody good little record of hip-hop informed jazz or jazz-inflected slow-jam/club R’n’B. It’s good music. That’s what it is. But it’s a crap album. In some ways at least.
I hate that it had to happen this way. And I keep thinking Candy Dulfer is due a renaissance. Another golden run like that one from about 1988-1993. And that time in the early 00s when Prince had her back.
Shit That’s Good! Crap Albums I Love is an occasional series here at Off The Tracks