Let's forget the winter breeze outside. Imagine it's 90 and rising, you're laying in the shade - lunt or beverage in hand - and Dee C Lee is wafting out of the bass bin speakers. Heaven or what? Things Will Be Sweeter is a straightforward, no frills soul track - and that's the best thing about it. Dee's luscious vocal over a gentle soul rhythm is a winner, proving the simple things are always the best. And for the headz who want some beatz, the flipside, Whenever You're Near, will be right up your street. Who would have thought Wham's backing vocalist would turn out to be so cool?
THINGS WILL BE SWEETER/WHEREVER YOU RUN
Laid back, distant echoes of retro and strong lead with equally well established backup position this as the cut that really nails it down for Dee C.
Cool and vibesy, it is what her work with Guru has positioned her for perfectly and, what's more, she takes it even further into the dark with real confidence on the optional track, too making this the way to go. (Rating:6)
The Kensington Hilton is the laid back setting for lunch and a chat with Dee C Lee. Dressed down in Adidas sneakers, she waltzes in, stylin' hard in black and
white lycra. Tea is ordered and we begin to shoot the breeze. At 34, the mother of two children and maried (of sorts) to Mr Paul Weller, Dee is on cracking form, oozing confidence with a
mix of street style and finesse. The girl has certainly got it going on.
It's hard to digest the fact that Dee is a veteran in the music world. It seems an age since she was dancing the go-go (in white stilettos and mini skirt) in George Michael's 'Wake Me Up'. But her transformation from pop girl to home girl has been seamless, though many will point to her fine performances on Guru 'Jazzmatazz' projects as the turning point in Dee's career. For her fans, this was a return to her roots: Dee was the sister who came home; a judgement confirmed at this year's Phoenix festival where Dee, dressed in single breasted two-tone trouser suit, sublime and down-right sexy, stole the show from a fistful of Americans.
"It wasn't a conscious effort on my part to suddenly be down," Dee says. "It wasn't a case of me saying, 'I must hook up with this rap stuff to gain some street credibility', it just happened."
And how it happened. Her performance on 'Mo Time To Play' added a touch of English class to that bad ass rap worl - exactly what was required for the experimental fusion of jazz and hip hop. Musically, it was just what was needed for Dee's career. She was beginning to feel like Little Miss Lost, making unsustained comebacks, being harassed about her private life and all the time bringing up a family. The entrance of Guru and his accompanying band of diverse talent, from Chaka Khan and Roy Ayers to Ronny Jordan, relit Dee's passion, giving her the strength and confidence to finish the album she had been working on for three years.
But don't go expecting an album in the same vein as her Guru-inspired projects. Dee may have come home, but it doesn't mean she's abandoned the lighter side of
her nature. "I know some people will say they were expecting something with a bit more edge," says Dee of "Things Will Be Sweeter" a mixture of feel-good soul and lightweight house with a
couple of pop songs sneaking in "But my musical goal was to make an album which would appeal to many instead of a select few. And if it means losing some credibility along the way, well so be
Those choosing to give this album a listen will be pleasantly surprised. One or two tracks will have to be discarded, but a closer listen is worth your while. With 'How Fat' and the title track, Dee's voice is deft and rapier-like, when compared to the wholesome broadsword version of say Carleen or Mica. It helps the stronger songs excel and ensures the weaker songs make it through. Dee's confidence and belief in her music, is evident in her decision to self-finance the whole project, putting it out under her own label Cleartone UK. Dee put her money where her mouth was in response to all those A&R men who offered her schoolgirl contracts while all the big bucks went in the direction of the all-girl, dancing, pouting, gyrating formula which now clogs the charts. But Dee has never let the fight get her down and as we finish off tea, she flashes that brilliant smile: all style, all class. Yep things will definitely be sweeter this winter with Dee back in town.
Refusing to compromise herself as an artist, Dee C Lee is going it alone, as Gary Crossing discovers
Dee C Lee sits in a busy west London hotel cafe. Unrecognised by power brunchers talking into mobile phones, the singer quietly pours herself a cup of tea. Gently confident, she's here to talk about herself-financed new solo opus, Things Will Be Sweeter, a dapper album "of strong songs with a clubby vibe and a radio-friendly feel".
The name may not be that familiar, but Lee's voice probably lurks somewhere within the grooves of your record collection. As backing singer and dancer with Wham! she graced such hit ditties as Club Tropicana and Young Guns (Go For It) until leaving in '83 for The Style Council. In between she launched a solo career, with her See The Day single reaching number two in '85. And she wed Mr Weller too.
"Nobody's interested in anything else," says Lee with a vague air of frustration. "They're just interested in the fact that I'm Mrs Paul Weller, which is a bit of a shame." A very large shame, actually, when tabloid journalists, hearing your marriage may be in trouble, start sniffing round you. "Whatever problems Paul and I are having, that's our business," says Lee. "If I'd wanted to talk about it I would have done so ages ago. And for money too!"
Lee put her career on hold to have children. "I didn't want to know about the business," she says. "Like all new mums all I cared about was my kids." Four years later, though, getting back
into music proved tricky. "I'd lost all confidence in regards to being a performer," she says. "You gain confidence on a personal level when you're a mum, but professionally it takes a while
to get your self-esteem back. Paul was always saying to me "You've still got a good voice and you still want to sing - I can tell bgecause you're not happy'."
It wasn't a great time for Paul either. After The Style Council split up in '90 he found himself between jobs. "We just clung to each other and our kids," remembers Lee. "Paul's a great father. He adores his kids and didn't want to do anything else other than be with us. It was an odd time but neither of us are strangers to hard times. Some people just curl up and die -some push on and go forwward. We're the latter."
The pair pushed on with the dance outfit Slam Slam. Weller and old pal Dr Robert wrote the tunes, while Lee provided those dulcet tones. "It wasn't massive but it did well in New York and on the underground scene here," she says.
Not a huge hit perhaps, but it did lead to Lee bbeing noticed by Guru from hip-hop combo Ganstarr. While remixing their track Free Your Feelings he decided he had to work with Lee again. This happened in '93 when he asked her to join his Jazzmatazz project. Singing alongside such jazz legends as Dinald Byrd and Roy Ayers gave her all the confidence she needed. She started to write, produce and record new material but couldn't get the record deal she wanted.
"There was too much of a compromise being asked of me as an artist," she says. "I didn't know whether I'd ever get the chance again and I had to do the album how I wanted it."
Clearly a determined person, Lee went it alone, releasing the LP on her own label. Despite people pushing her in certain directions, she didn't want to get named producers and songwriting teams in to guarantee an instant hit.
"I actually have something of my own to give," she says. "I couldn't be happy with success if I didn't feel happy with the work I'd put out."