A fearless reviewer once again encounters a past partially objectionable content provider, self-proclaimed pastor of "The Church Of Nothing But The Truth" at a worthy cause. CAUTION: ADULT LANGUAGE, ADULT SITUATIONS, NSFW but, as always, reviewed from a Christian perspective.
Bishop Bullwinkle/Marvelous Mack and The Pressure Release Band featuring Beautiful Becky/Christopher's Project
Comfort Zone Entertainment Center
26 June 2016
How depraved could it be?
Sure, my last personal encounter with Bishop Bullwinkle found me overhearing him inveigle against one of his family members one of the foulest ways of taking the Lord's name one could imagine. But, giving him the benefit of the doubt beyond his having recorded that unfortunate utterance, he did record "Hell To Da Naw Naw," the astute, hilarious lampoon of rural African-American preachers that has exploded over the past 18 months or so as a hit on Southern soul radio outlets and on the internet with about 4,000.000,000 YouTube hits for in at least two versions of the outta-left-field story song. Then, too, that he also sings "Some Preachers (Ain't Shit)" should have clued me in a bit more...?
Whatever the degree my naivete over the cuss-prone curmudgeon in question, the circumstances surrounding his Milwaukee debut were unusual, if for a good cause. Benefit events to raise money toward the often overwhelming expense it can take to fight cancer are, unfortunately, not uncommon. Not everyone being treated for the disease, however, has a regionally renowned blues/old school r&b singer for a cousin with connections. Such is the good fortune of Gloria Freeman, who has in her family tree in the same city Marvelous Mack, whose amiable take on "grown folks music" receives regular rotation on weekend blues and Southern soul radio shows, and, apparently, plenty of other places.
To help his kin in need, Mack brought in the singer/comedian/raconteur whose debut ditty has become one of the most requested-and divisive-on local black AM radio in recent years. He pretty well filled most every seat set up around tables at Comfort Zone, a new-ish club founded as an extension of its proprietress' active catering business.
The air at Comfort Zone was filled with the comedic ramblings of a 68 year-old divorcee horn dog whose schtick makes Redd Foxx or Richard Pryor in their acme of filthiness seem like Sinbad or Bill Cosby at their family-friendliest. That he was sporting a purple cowboy hat and suit ensemble adorned with at least two crosses made for an even more glaring contrast of countenance and content. It had been my hope that Bullwinkle would be something like a countrified iteration of Flip Wilson's character of Reverend Leroy of The Church Of What's Happening Now After all, in "Naw," Bullwinkle says that he pastors The Church Of Nothing But The Truth.
But many of Bullwinkle's on-stage truths, assuming they weren't comedic prevarications, were largely about his sex life within and without the parameters of matrimony...and the sex lives of black church folks. If there be any humorous value in, for instance, his relating an instance with a transvestite that caused him to to question his heterosexuality or laying on his back on Comfort Zone's dance floor with a chair replicating an iron bed's headboard above his noggin (there goes the cowboy hat!) to replicate one way to orally pleasure a woman...there's still the question of his self-declared title.
In a cadence copped from his biggest hit, he answered the oft-asked question of whether he's really a bishop with a hearty "naw naw." That served as a launching point for him to tell of how his retrieval of a tossed out pulpit, fire extinguisher and "do no evil monkey statue led him to conceive his alter ego and the music video that reinvigorated his entertainment career; clips of his pre-faux bishopric stand-up spieling can be found on YouTube.
Pornographic and blasphemous as Bullwinkle's bit is, he did deliver some truthful observations, even some hope. In explaining his fictitious clerical designation, he spoke of how bishops in black church life hold great sway among their flocks and that churches are community hubs among many Americans of African descent. Though he more than once urged everyone in his audience to have "a relationship with God" and encouraged an engaged couple seated toward the front to wed soon as possible for reasons making both biblical and worldly sense, there are people certainly more consistent to give the same advice, much less entailing what a scripture-based, mutually beneficial relationship with Him would entail. And he sounded genuinely nurturing and concerned for the guest of honor, who was scheduled to have an oncological procedure the next day. Judging from her short, fine hair, she may have already had at least one round of chemotherapy, but one might otherwise never have guessed her plight amid her chipper demeanor.
Bullwinkle sang, of course, as well. In addition to his two hits, he assayed three remakes with varying degrees of smuttiness. The only noticeable change he made to his opening rendition of Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" was to say that had everything, not nothing, to live for; I was prepared for him to something like late dirty r&b parodist Clarence "Blowfly" Reid's "Shittin' On The Dock....," but Bullwinkle kept it clean.
The same can't be said for what he did to The Floaters' insta-kitcsh ballad, "Float On," and a fairly straight interpolation of John Mayer's pastiche of The Impressions' message music soul, "Waiting For The World To Change." The former was rife with libidinous boasts, and the latter, with the interpolation of the an infamous rhyme about a soldier's weapon for fighting and gun for fun.
Concluding the night with "Naw Naw," Bullwinkle cracked himself with a last, unrecorded verse about, ah, let's say the pitfalls of overly enthusiastic penitentiary sodomy. Yep, he was still wearing that cross as he clapped his hands and chuckled at his own punchline.
The closest Marvelous Mack came to such depths was a new song of his about how infidelity isn't cheating if one doesn't get caught, even then, Mack wasn't advocating it and made a medley of it with Z.Z. Hill's early '80s "Down Home Blues." Other original highlights in his and the wonderfully-named Pressure Release Band include the potential line dance smash "Line Up And Get You Groove On," his tribute to Chicago's contribution to formalized dancing for Afrimerican adults of a certain age, "Steppin'," and an effective down tempo turn, "Can You Remember The Rain?" His male band and back-up singers were nattily dressed in mostly black & white with his sometime-duet partner, Beautiful Becky, arguably shined brightest singing in tandem with her boss on Midnight Starr's "Slow Jam," and in a trio with her sister and a Patti Labelle-sounding woman with an immaculate 'fro and studded black Capri pants Mack called Queen Victoria on a medley of Staple Singers hits. Crazy good all the way around, Mack and his pressure releasers.
Christopher's Project, a Milwaukee vocal and saxophone duo with backing tracks, stuck to remakes, but often added their own touch to them. Jack Watkins' lead tenor may be most effective on slower numbers such as Bobby Caldwell's "What You Won't Do For Love" and Maxwell's "Ascension, though he brought sass aplenty to Rick James' ode to being horny while high, "Give It To Me." Along a similar, though likely less consensual path, it was my hope that Robin Thicke's regrettable "Thin Lines" would be one of those big r&b radio hits by Euromerican acts, such as The Osmonds' "One Bad Apple" and Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby," that would be largely renounced by black audiences not long after it became popular. Yeah, the Project went there, and to a rousing reception. In tribute to Freeman and as sufficient penance for resurrecting the aforementioned steaming musical pile, a spirited rendition of Ben E,. King's "Stand by Me" closed their set.
(To make a contribution toward relieving Freeman of her hefty medical bill, get to the We Love Gloria Freeman Fund at https://www.gofundme.com/gloriafreeman )
-Jamie Lee Rake