Clarence Reid's soulful side is hidden somewhere under that supervillain mask he wears as X-rated rapper Blowfly. When he wasn't composing some of the dirtiest raps known to man back in the '70s, Reid could turn on the charm and play his voice like a horn in Miles Davis' grasp. Even through his current thick rasp, the fella who created hits like "Master Piece" and "Funky Party" is still as dynamic as hell. During an unmasked performance earlier this year at Fort Lauderdale's Monterey Club, the Miami resident bobbed and weaved through a set of his classics with the unhinged intensity of a man young enough to be his own illegitimate great-grandchild. In addition to his own soul creations, Reid has penned tunes for South Florida's KC and the Sunshine Band as well. What we're talking about isn't neo-soul, gospel, R&B, or any other subgenre but just the pure, unadulterated soul of a man — with an adulterated mind.
As umpteen karaoke singers have shown, the artistry of Neil Diamond is impossible to replicate. If you don't get too close to Neil Zirconia, who dubs himself "the ultimate faux diamond," it's easy to pretend that the gravelly warble knockoff you're getting is the real gem. Discovered by an Elvis impersonator — how apt — Chuck LaPaglia has delivered sparkling sets of Diamond classics as the Zirconia alter ego for years. Unlike the real Neil, you're often getting a quality steak dinner and cocktails at fine South Florida restaurants while the man in a sequin-covered shirt unloads "Sweet Caroline, "Cracklin' Rose," and "Kentucky Woman" with flair — and if you haven't gotten enough, the wait for another local gig is always a short one. A thrill so cheap rarely feels so good. A Diamond might be forever, but Zirconia lasts long enough for a night of quality nostalgia.