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Friday, October 14, 2011

Dash It All!

One definition for the word "dash," I discovered, is "a combination of style, confidence and energy," and that certainly applies to Sarah Dash, who performed yesterday evening at New York's intimate Laurie Beechman Theatre on 42nd St. The last time I saw Sarah perform, it was as a surprise guest at Nona Hendryx's act at Joe's Pub, several years back. Sarah came up from the audience and joined Nona in an exciting, show-stopping rendition of "Lady Marmalade," the #1 hit tune they recorded in 1975 as two-thirds of the funk/glam-rock girl group, Labelle. The missing party was Patti. The trio of fabulous voces went on to solo careers after the breakup of their group. The women reunited in 2008 to record the somewhat uneven album, Back to Now, which peaked on Billboard at 45. The single, "Superlover," was handsomely buoyed by good remixes, however, which ultimately sent it to #8 on the dance/club chart.

Sarah recorded a string of dance-music songs, notably 1978's "Sinner Man," which rose to 5th place on that year's Billboard dance list; "Lucky Tonight," "Lowdown Dirty Rhythm" (both produced by the legendary Patrick Cowley in 1983) and "When You Talk to Me/Manhandled" (a 1990 Jellybean Benitez production).

Sarah was the pretty, quiet one. She was to Labelle what Mary Wilson was to the Supremes: the demure one in the middle of two stronger, more willful personalities. I knew she could belt a song out of the park, but who knew she had a voice? That is, until her solo show last evening, during which she amused almost effortlessly with her patter.

Ms Dash is quite the raconteur, best when not following her script. This is one Sarah you want to hear off-message, like when she lets it slip that Cindy Birdsong got plucked from Patti Labelle & the Bluebells to be one of the Supremes (after Diana darted) because Motown mistakenly thought Sarah's voice belonged to Cindy. They were later reportedly disappointed.

Dressed in a gold, sparkly outfit and humungous stilettoed platform boots that echoed her glam-rock days, Ms Dash opened with her new single, the ballad "I'm Still Here." The song was penned for the '08 Labelle album but overlooked. "They said it showed promise," Dash said sardonically. But, last night, the promise was fulfilled and it set the tone for the singer's gratefully long set.

"Time Is on My Side" was the second number. When performing with The Rolling Stones, Sarah took the lead vocals on that one, which, Keith Richards said in his autobiography, is 'the best version of that song I've ever heard'."

The rest of the show, simply titled Sarah Dash: One Woman
showcased the diva's powerhouse deliveries and range. From raunchy blues numbers to inspirational gospel to jazz, rock and disco, Sarah Dash can do it all. And her free-wheeling monolog strings things together with a great sense of humor and pathos. She discusses her mother's death and her own illnesses, career collapse and other crises, and weaves them into her songbook for the night. She covers standards like "What a Difference a Day Makes," "I Love Paris" and "You Don't Send Me Flowers" with an immediacy of feeling and stylization that makes the trite fresh and emotionally real. Ms Dash, apparently lovingly, refers to the late Laura Nyro as "that heifer" with whom she worked when with Labelle on the now-classic "Gonna Take a Miracle" album. She then does a brilliantly soulful cover of one of Nyro's lesser known numbers, "Buy & Sell."

There is a rousing portion of the show dedicated to her Labelle songs; "What Can You Do for Me?" being the highlight. Her solo hit "Sinner Man" is presented but, unfortunately, marred by the lack of flourishing orchestration essential to that tune. (A keyboard and tambourine don't hack it, I'm afraid, when put up against swirling strings and cowbells.) Musical director and keyboardist Lanny Meyers is, however, generally brilliant. Sarah's two back-up guys give strong support, especially during the LaBelle numbers.

Sarah Dash returns to Laurie Beechman on November 17. Her new album is to be released early in 2012.

But now for last night's unrelated random thought. Talking after the show, my friend and I pondered whether Republicans are turning away from the Tea Party in favor of the Potato Chips, Pretzels & Other Junk Food Party. I mean, candidates named Cain and Bachmann? Are candidates Wise and Frito-Lay soon to throw their hats into the ring?

To close, let's update the more interesting developments on the Billboard dance chart: Taylor Dayne glides up to #13 from 16 with the fab "Floor on Fire," ever so close to the top 10; Kathy Sledge edges up one spot to #20 with "Give Yourself Up;" Dev snatches the #1 spot from Gloria Estefan with "In the Night," while Lady Gaga's "You & I" comes breezily up behind her, conquering #2 for now and almost certain to take #1 by next week.


  1. Fabulous review of Sarah Dash! Will try to get to her on November 17th! I guess Kathy Sledge is one of the Sledge Sisters? A lot of great old-time divas making comebacks on the dance charts!
    Re Republican names, also note that Bush is a maker of baked beans--very appropriate, as something that creates a noxious gas!

  2. I LOVE Sarah Dash! Sinner Man? To die for. Wish I could be in NYC to see her (I'm in Scotland.) If she came here, she'd be surprised how much we love her.

  3. Sarah Dash, wow! Love her. Where has she been?? I'm going to the November show, definitely. Loved the blog, Beaver!

    "Sarah Dash:ONE WOMAN". Enjoyed EVERY MOMENT
    Of the Performance. WELL WORTH THE MONEY,TIME
    and ENERGY.

  5. Thanks, CM. You certainly seem to be a huge fan. And why not? An underrated talent.