Rick James still ‘Kickin’’
David Goodson | 8/7/2014, 12:24 p.m.
Funkateers over the world can relate to the dichotomy that comes with the beginning of August. Aug. 5, 1983, reinforcement of his legacy was added with the “Cold Blooded” release of his then-seventh studio album. Like the previous sixth, it also went on to at least gold. Guest appearances on that particular recording included Melle Mel and Rahiem of the Furious Five and Grandmaster Flash, Smokey Robinson and Billy Dee Williams.
However, Aug. 6, 2004, as a result of a heart attack, the funk lord passed away in his Los Angeles home at age 56. Such was the life of James Ambrose Johnson Jr., known and loved as Rick James.
It’s been 10 years already and hardly a peep has been made about the impact the dude had on the music industry. He is perhaps more noted as the character (or caricature) portrayed hilariously on the “Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories” sketch on “Chappelle’s Show,” which debuted, ironically, in 2004. Truth be told, however, in his prime, he was one of them dudes! Fact is, he shouldered most of the weight so Motown could stay afloat. Don’t get me wrong. I know some great music was created (Switch, DeBarge, Stevie and the Commodores) during that time frame, but from, say, 1978 to 1984, was it not the punk-funk wave that kept them in the game until Lionel Richie took the baton?
I submit as evidence “You & I,” “Bustin Out,” “Give It to Me Baby,” “Ghetto Life,” “Standing on the Top (Part 1)” (with the Temptations) and “Dance Wit’ Me (Part 1)” asJames’ singles that held down the 1980s. That’s separate from the mark his production and pen game, working with such acts as Teena Marie and the Mary Jane Girls, left on the charts.
As for legacy, are not “Mary Jane,” “Fire and Desire,” “Happy,” “Super Freak” and “All Night Long” time tested? For the collectors and curious, July 8, Universal Music Enterprises reissued James’ entire Motown catalog in a 109-track “Complete Motown Albums” digital box set, which includes all nine albums and a selection of bonus tracks. Five of James’ nine Motown albums will receive separate digital releases. Three of them—1983’s No. 1 R&B gold-certified “Cold Blooded,” 1985’s top 10 R&B effort “Glow” and 1986’s “The Flag”—will be reissued for the very first time. Two additional albums—1978’s double-platinum “Come Get It!”and 1979’s platinum No. 2 R&B release “Bustin’ Out of L Seven”—will be remastered and re-released digitally with new bonus tracks. All five were mastered for iTunes to ensure that the music is delivered to listeners with increased audio fidelity that more closely replicates what the artists, recording engineers and producers intended.
In addition, UMe will release six new Rick James-associated albums never available digitally, including three from his backup band, Stone City Band—“Rick James Presents Stone City Band In ‘N’ Out” (1980), “The Boys Are Back” (1981) and “Out From the Shadow” (1983)—as well as “Rick James Presents Bobby M*: Blow” (1982) and Val Young’s 1985 album, “Seduction.”