Rick James – 1981 – Street Songs
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Review by David O’Donnell
Following on from the poorly received Garden of Love album, Rick James released the seminal Street Songs in 1981 to both critical acclaim and commercial success, showing that the king of punk-funk was back on top.
What made Street Songs such a success was the defiant and passionate performances given by James, together with the innovative and exciting songwriting throughout. The singles Superfreak, Ghetto Life and Give It To Me Baby all topped the dance charts in the US, and the album managed to breathe new life into a Motown label, which at the time was struggling to release hit albums. Street Songs became the biggest R&B album of that year, staying at the top of the charts for 20 consecutive weeks and since then the album has gone multi-platinum.
Although the album was released more than three decades ago, the influence of James as a performer and Street Songs as an album remains strong, with his tracks being sampled by hip hop artists including Busta Rhymes and Jay Z as well as being featured in numerous film and computer game soundtracks.
Including in the The Top 10 Motown Albums by Mojo Magazine.
A1 Give It to Me Baby 4:07
A2 Ghetto Life 4:20
A3 Make Love to Me 4:48
A4 Mr. Policeman 4:17
B1 Super Freak 3:25
B2 Fire and Desire 7:19
B3 Call Me 3:54
B4 Below the Funk (Pass the J) 2:36
By MAXIMILLIAN MUHAMMAD
Oh 1981 seems just like yesterday. General Hospital with Luke and Laura was the big thing on Tv and so was Dallas and any Sugar Ray Leonard fight, but in Music there was One Guy who was on the pulse of that year and his Name was Rick James. Being from Buffalo, New York myself or B-lo as we call it leaves alot of memorys. That summer in taking that our Hometown Boy had truly blown up with a Album that was a Blue-Print for the Future in Funk, Pop, R&B, and even more so where Rap Music was concearned.
The truth is that “Street Songs” was the Blue-Print for what Rap Music was to become in terms of talking about issues that not many artists in any style were bold enough to talk about. Rick James was the People’s champion of the Street and for folks who didn’t care about Ronald Reagan and his Racist tired ways. Rick James made that album that for the Hood, the Burbs and everywhere else in between, but yet He stayed R&B and always had that Street Respect.
Give it to me baby the horns the story line and the say what catch phrase were all felt. that is trademark Rick Riff right there. the bass, the Groove and the give it to me. not many artists would make a song where they admit to being to High to making love to there Ole Lady. Rick allowed himself to be vulnerable and the song caught on big time. there hasn’t really been another song that hit like that with that kind of storyline and detail.that song still packs a whole lot of punch and it has been sampled,looped,etc…. so many times since then.
Ghettp Life who else was talking about playing frezze tag with Winos? I mean He talked about everything Hood and it kept it real. the Bass groove was slamming. The line one thing about the Ghetto is that it will be there tommorow so people don’t you worry is both creative and witty,but at the same time sad. But a reality.
Make Love to Me very intoxicating Rhythm and Mellow groove that changes tempo but works. very Jazzesque in terms of the Progression. very smooth.a strong vocal performance by Rick.good strong arrangements. Narada Michael Walden gives a nice touch on the drums.
Mr.PoliceMan way before NWA came out with F*** tha police” Rick James spoke of Racial Profiling and other situations and he kept it real. this Song had a strong Reggae Bob Marley feel to it. Stevie Wonder knocks out the harmonica part. Teena Marie’s part works and compliments the song as well. very honest song. very direct.
Super Freak call this the Pay Day Jam. New Wavy with the Funk at the Bottom. twisted lines about the wrong kind of girl to take home to your Mother. but it works. the groove works and the lyrics are funny,but effective. the Longer version is extra Crispy Funky. Rick found a Groove and a song that has been sampled,used,etc… so much it ain’t even funny. this is One of those classic Songs that is timeless and will never be forgotten.
Fire and Desire Rick James and Teena Marie made a slow Jam classic here and for my money there hasn’t been a better duet in the past 25 plus years. the passion, intensity and the overall arrangements and vibe of this song is timeless. Rick gets into Opera on this Classic. The trade-off is classic. This is the kind of song where you break up but you still got strong feelings for your Ex. mos people can relate to that. Teena marie around the time was in the Hospital with a 109 degree temperture but she came on down to the studio and knocked this jam out. Classic and great Musical drama.
Call Me Up Pre Cell Phone and early days of the Message box where you’d call somebody and leave a Message this song is basically that. Now the groove and Rhythm here is on point and also Rick dropped a tight Rap Flow that hasn’t always been acknowledged. the groove itself is very in line with the way Rap Music would go. Rick song the song as if He was Crooning. The range was way up there and he made it work. He nailed it and this song is still cold. I dig the broadway swing of this cut.I dug the latin Percussion break and swinging Horns.tight background vocals.
Below the Funk a Funky Groove Message to the haters directly. Nobody else was doing a cut like this back then. A cool ending and on point. This song was loose and the groove is bumping. A straight up Shout out about B-LO.
Props to the Stone city band for there Contributions, Lady T. Teena Marie who left a strong impact on this album. Props to Tom Flye.
This album Paved the way to keeping the funk but also balancing out the Pop textures which would later take Michael Jackson, Prince, Lionel Richie, Bobby Brown, R.Kelly, Outkast and others across and Beyond into a Wider audience.”Street Songs” was that Album that paved the way in the early 80’s and it hasn’t gotten it’s full due.
But Rick James was a Musical Genius and he left a strong Impact on the music World and His Music deserves to get the full long overdue it deserves and this Classic Album speaks volumes then as it does now.