Rick James sold millions of records, discovered another Twelve Bar favorite Teena Marie, became one of the hottest producers of his day and was an incredible live draw too. So much more than the Dave Chappelle punch line that his wild lifestyle and reputation has generated for modern observers, Rick James’ confident punk funk and exceptionally energetic disco-tinged funk-rock fusion is often plain sensational. His production and arrangements are structured and sophisticated, densely packed but always in harmony and on the right side of frenetic.
A virtuoso who played virtually all of the instruments throughout, his debut ‘Come Get it!’ is a flawless slice of funky r’n’b that simply exploded out of speakers in 1978 and shifted the game in subtle but crucial ways, and was cemented by follow up ‘Bustin Out of L-Seven’. It’s easy to forget how special a talent Rick James was, as evidenced in part by his bust up with support act Prince who apparently borrowed a fair amount of his own style and musical approach from his early mentor, much to his displeasure. But James was not Prince version 1.0, he was his own unique force of creativity. Every song on ‘Come Get It!’ is priceless, from the ballads to the club funk, from the stoned jams to the disco-flashing bangers. ‘Mary Jane’ is a stone cold classic, ‘You and I’ is a workout of obscene brilliance, ‘Sexy Lady’ a slinky bass-heavy groove (and on the Hot Girls playlist),‘Hollywood’ a slow-burner of lush musical excellence. And on it goes. Massive crossover potential from an artist who pushed the boundaries of music and created a style that reflected his larger than life persona and creativity. Super freak indeed.