Soul: Yes, he's a great pretender
Rachid Jazz Cafe, NW1
Sunday 04 October 1998
You can tell when a gig is a showcase because the venue (in this case, London's Jazz Cafe) is half-empty, there are 8x10 glossies of the artist stuck to every available surface, and the record company gets a boisterous round of applause every time it's mentioned. It makes for a decidedly unreal sort of atmosphere, but, then again, Rachid is a pretty unreal sort of guy. The man who would be Prince (at least, if his record company had anything to do with it), is a diminutive, androgynous-looking, 24- year-old singer-songwriter from New Jersey. He mixes rock and R&B modes in a way that promises to attract (or, alternatively, risks alienating), record buyers from both sides of the fence. He also has a neat line in Dot Cotton impersonations, proving he was a "confirmed Anglophile" by treating us to cockney stage patter along the lines of "Awright, innit?" and referring to his band as geezers.
As the son of Ronald "Kool" Bell, the co-founder of Kool and the Gang, Rachid has funk in his genes. But where nurture has played its part, things get tricky: Rachid enjoys listening to Courtney Love, David Bowie and British indie bands. He may also be the only person in the world to admire both Mariah Carey and Nico, once the ice-maiden of pre-punk smack-rock. It all adds up to a very strange brew, but Rachid's debut album, Prototype - due to be released here in January - is actually very good. The rock elements are mostly held in check by a smooth R&B production and a style of singing that is identifiably school of soul, not ghoul.
Tonight though, the singing was a problem. Clearly nervous, Rachid fell victim to what we doctors call Mariah Carey syndrome: a disease that makes perfectly good vocalists break up every single syllable into a series of melismatic moans. As a result, the meaning of what is being sung, and any sense of dynamics, is lost; each word is made to sound as ecstatic as a fake orgasm, even the ands, buts and sos. Otis Redding did this for effect; Mariah does it all the time, probably even while talking on the phone. When Rachid did occasionally hold a note instead of immediately chopping it up into little pieces, he sounded great.
Elsewhere, he was all over the place. With his hair in pigtails, and wearing a black satin ensemble that looked more than a touch Terence Trent D'Arby, Rachid is endearingly sweet. But he's going to have to learn what to do with his hands. Groping at the air, making as if to go for the security of his crotch and then suddenly turning back, as if thinking better of the gesture, his hands took on a life of their own. But give the lad a guitar to hold, and the confidence to sound a little more like himself, and you never know: someday his Prince may come.
Rachid's single 'Pride' (Universal Records) is out on 26 October.
filmIn Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Shia LaBeouf claims he was raped during #IAMSORRY art installation performance
- 2 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 3 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
- 4 Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
- 5 Michael Buerk wishes he killed Jimmy Savile when he had the chance - by pushing him overboard a cruise ship
I'm A Celebrity 2014: Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' close to camp
Jennifer Lawrence scores first UK top 40 single with Hunger Games track 'The Hanging Tree'
Exodus Gods and Kings casting controversy: Ridley Scott would never cast 'Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such' in lead role
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
The Fall, series 2, episode 3 – TV review: The Gillian Anderson drama is starting to push the realms of plausibility, but who cares?
Obama: The only people with the right to object to immigration are Native Americans
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Ukip mocked after mistaking Westminster Cathedral – for a mosque
Plebgate: Andrew Mitchell’s reputation in tatters as judge rules he used the word ‘pleb’