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R&B - Released January 1, 2002 | UNI - MOTOWN

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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R&B - Released January 1, 1981 | Motown

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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R&B - Released January 1, 1981 | Motown

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Disappointed because Garden of Love wasn't as well received as it should have been, Rick James made a triumphant return to defiant, in-your-face funk with the triple-platinum Street Songs. This was not only his best-selling album ever, it was also his best period, and certainly the most exciting album released in 1981. The gloves came all the way off this time, and James is as loud and proud as ever on such arresting hits as "Super Freak," "Give It to Me Baby," and "Ghetto Life." Ballads aren't a high priority, but those he does offer (including his stunning duet with Teena Marie, "Fire and Desire") are first-rate. Even the world's most casual funksters shouldn't be without this pearl of an album. ~ Alex Henderson
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Funk - Released April 20, 1978 | UNI - MOTOWN

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Funk - Released January 26, 1979 | UNI - MOTOWN

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Funk - Released May 21, 1985 | UNI - MOTOWN

By the mid-'80s, Rick James' funk had become a very tired cliché. Hits like 1984's "17" found an artist who had been so exciting only a few years earlier sounding increasingly formulaic and predictable. But he got out of his artistic rut in a major way with the excellent Glow. In interviews, James had expressed a desire to record an all-out rock album, and while Glow doesn't fit that description, he does incorporate rock and pop elements with splendid results on everything from the new wave-ish "Can't Stop" to the sweaty "Rock & Roll Control." But make no mistake: this is an R&B album first and foremost, and seductive numbers like "Moonchild" and the title song would be worthy of Kashif or Luther Vandross. Regrettably, James' risk-taking didn't pay off, and Glow was far from a major hit. Next to Garden of Love, Glow may be the most underrated album of Rick James' career. ~ Alex Henderson
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Funk - Released August 5, 1983 | UNI - MOTOWN

It isn't hard to understand why Cold Blooded received so many lukewarm reviews when it came out in 1983; by that time, Rick James was being increasingly formulaic and predictable. Instead of taking a hint from Prince -- who maintained a risk-taking, adventurous spirit throughout the '80s, even if it meant stumbling on rare occasions -- James was content to recycle 1981's Street Songs over and over. That said, Cold Blooded definitely has its moments. Parts of this LP are forgettable, including the hit title song (which, like 1984's "17," was criticized for sounding so contrived). But some of the tracks are worthwhile, especially "P.I.M.P. the S.I.M.P." -- a compelling piece of social commentary that describes the way a ruthless street pimp preys on young women. The tune isn't an indictment of prostitution in general; if anything, "P.I.M.P. the S.I.M.P." makes a case for legalizing the world's oldest profession because legal brothels (like the ones in Nevada and Holland) usually aren't run by the sort of vicious individuals that James' tunes describes. And "P.I.M.P. the S.I.M.P." not only sheds light on a social problem that Lois Lee's Children of the Night organization had been addressing, it also gives James a chance to feature old-school rapper Grandmaster Flash, whose sociopolitical recordings of 1982 and 1983 influenced everyone from Public Enemy to Ice-T. Other worthwhile songs on Cold Blooded range from the soul ballad "Ebony Eyes" (an unlikely yet successful duet with Smokey Robinson) to "New York Town" (James' lively ode to the Big Apple). Cold Blooded is far from a total meltdown; although uneven and less than essential, the LP has more pluses than minuses. Nonetheless, James was capable of so much more in 1983. ~ Alex Henderson
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R&B - Released October 16, 1979 | UNI - MOTOWN

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Rick James's third album in 18 months may have spread the funk a little thin (or saturated the market), since Fire It Up was not as effective as his first two efforts. The usual mix of rock and R&B had some disco added, which dulled the music's edge and made it more formulaic. At the same time, James's single-entendre come ons, notably the album's biggest single, "Love Gun," were beginning to sound less provocative than just smutty. James had all the weapons for success in his arsenal, but he hadn't yet figured out a unified plan of attack, and Fire It Up was a holding action. ~ William Ruhlmann
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R&B - Released May 13, 2013 | UNI - MOTOWN

Rick James fans generally agree that 1981's Street Songs is his finest album -- in fact, Street Songs is essential listening for anyone with even a casual interest in hardcore funk. Unfortunately, James tried to recycle the album's formula on many of his subsequent albums, and by the mid-'80s, he had become a very predictable and redundant caricature of himself. But in 1982, James was still exciting. That year's Throwin' Down, the album that followed Street Songs, falls short of essential but is still rewarding. Many of the songs are excellent, including the cynical "Money Talks" and the major hits "Standing on the Top" (which features the Temptations) and "Dance Wit' Me." Not surprisingly, hardcore funk dominates the record, although Throwin' Down contains a few pleasing soul ballads as well. "Happy," a duet with Teena Marie, and "Teardrops" point to the fact that James can be a very expressive ballad singer even though he is best known for his up-tempo material. This album does sound like recycled Street Songs at times, but in 1982, James had yet to run the formula into the ground. All things considered, Throwin' Down was an enjoyable, if imperfect and slightly uneven, addition to the funkster's catalog. ~ Alex Henderson
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R&B - Released January 1, 2010 | Hip-O Select

Without a doubt, Garden of Love was Rick James' most underrated release. The album went gold and was far from a flop, but Motown wanted double or triple platinum, and anything less was disappointing. And when funk fans reminisce, Garden isn't one of the albums they mention. A departure from the type of hard and rowdy funk that defined Come Get It!, Bustin' Out of L Seven, and Fire It Up, Garden boasted only one major hit ("Big Time") and was surprisingly laid-back by James' standards. The album contains more ballads than usual, and Rick uses subtlety to his artistic advantage on songs ranging from the clever "Mary Go Round" to the haunting "Summer Love." Unfortunately, some mistook subtlety for wimpiness. But make no mistake: the songs are first-rate, though they lack the type of immediacy he was known for. Those who overlooked Garden need to give it a closer listen. ~ Alex Henderson
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R&B - Released March 14, 2006 | UNI - MOTOWN

A condensed version of the 2005 Rick James Gold collection, The Definitive Collection trims the fat found on Gold and leaves a nice balance between his most well-known hits and some of his most acclaimed production work with other artists. Definitive wastes no time getting into the goods either, starting with the one-two punch of "You and I" and his ode to herbal jazz cigarettes, "Mary Jane." The goods are chronologically arranged, and it's not until the middle of the disc that James' most well-known anthems -- "Super Freak, Pt. 1" and "Give It to Me Baby" -- are found. But it's not only his recordings that make Definitive so accessible for casual fans; his production work with Teena Marie, Smokey Robinson, and the Temptations (all included here) will sound instantly recognizable to anyone who listened to R&B radio during the '80s. Lacking any sort of deep cuts, collectors and die-hard fans will most likely already own everything here. But casual fans looking for all the hits would be well served in using this as a starting point to explore further, as Definitive has all the hits and then some. ~ Rob Theakston
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Funk - Released April 18, 1986 | UNI - MOTOWN

After escaping from his creative rut with Glow, Rick James offered an abundance of formulaic funk on The Flag, his final album for Gordy and the weakest of his career. There are a few decent songs on side two of this LP, including the sociopolitical smoker "Silly Little Man" (an angry commentary on the nuclear arms race and U.S./Soviet relations) and the new wave-ish "Painted Pictures," which describes the type of facades people show the world. Meanwhile, side one is a complete waste. On knee-jerk, assembly-line tracks like the single "Sweet and Sexy Thing," James simply recycles his funk hits of the early '80s, and he does so without even a trace of conviction or sincerity. Slick Rick is merely going through the motions, and it's painfully obvious. ~ Alex Henderson
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R&B - Released June 15, 1991 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

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R&B - Released December 6, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

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Funk - Released April 20, 1978 | UNI - MOTOWN

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R&B - Released October 16, 1979 | Hip-O Select

Rick James's third album in 18 months may have spread the funk a little thin (or saturated the market), since Fire It Up was not as effective as his first two efforts. The usual mix of rock and R&B had some disco added, which dulled the music's edge and made it more formulaic. At the same time, James's single-entendre come ons, notably the album's biggest single, "Love Gun," were beginning to sound less provocative than just smutty. James had all the weapons for success in his arsenal, but he hadn't yet figured out a unified plan of attack, and Fire It Up was a holding action. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Funk - Released January 26, 1979 | UNI - MOTOWN

Rick James' second album, Bustin' Out of L Seven, maintained his status among R&B fans, almost topping the LP chart and spawning hits in the title track, "High on Your Love Suite," and "Fool on the Street," though none of them matched the popularity of the debut album's "You and I" or "Mary Jane." James managed an effective amalgam of recent R&B big-band styles, from Sly & the Family Stone to Earth, Wind & Fire and Funkadelic, overlaying the result with his jeeringly rendered sex-and-drugs philosophy. What was missing this time was a real pop crossover -- if Come Get It! had suggested he could have the pop success of Earth, Wind & Fire, Bustin' Out of L Seven threatened that his work would find as restricted an audience as Funkadelic, and without the critical cachet. ~ William Ruhlmann
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R&B - Released May 17, 1994 | UNI - MOTOWN

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Funk - Released April 1, 1979 | UNI - MOTOWN

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R&B - Released July 16, 1980 | UNI - MOTOWN

Without a doubt, Garden of Love was Rick James' most underrated release. The album went gold and was far from a flop, but Motown wanted double or triple platinum, and anything less was disappointing. And when funk fans reminisce, Garden isn't one of the albums they mention. A departure from the type of hard and rowdy funk that defined Come Get It!, Bustin' Out of L Seven, and Fire It Up, Garden boasted only one major hit ("Big Time") and was surprisingly laid-back by James' standards. The album contains more ballads than usual, and Rick uses subtlety to his artistic advantage on songs ranging from the clever "Mary Go Round" to the haunting "Summer Love." Unfortunately, some mistook subtlety for wimpiness. But make no mistake: the songs are first-rate, though they lack the type of immediacy he was known for. Those who overlooked Garden need to give it a closer listen. ~ Alex Henderson