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Rarities Edition: Street Songs

Rick James

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Album Review

Part of the Rarities Edition series, which Universal distribution used as a way to spin off the second discs of its Deluxe Edition series, this disc, apart from an informational wraparound strip, looks identical to the original Street Songs. Unfortunately, the packaging masks the significance of the disc’s content, which amounts to the lone legitimate Rick James live set. A dynamite performance, it’s worthy of its own artwork and detachment from a catalog series. Technically taken from two Long Beach gigs that went down on July 30 and 31, 1981, as Street Songs was the number one R&B album in the U.S. — while opener Teena Marie held up the second spot with It Must Be Magic — the set is rather evenly spread between Street Songs and each of James’ earlier albums. James, backed by his Stone City Band, Punk Funk Horns, and Mary Jane Band, proficiently delivers everything (even “Mary Jane”) with a high level of energy. There’s plenty of stage-crowd interaction, with James acknowledging the Atlanta child murders, the killing of anti-racism activists in Greensboro, NC, and the death of Bob Marley, all recent events, yet without bringing down the party. A middle stretch features Teena Marie performing “I’m a Sucker for Love” (albeit with Levi Ruffin, Jr. taking James’ place) and “Square Biz” (which had just entered the R&B chart’s Top Ten). Of course, the remastered Street Songs itself, released in 2002 with the 12” mixes of “Give It to Me Baby” and “Super Freak,” is absolutely essential, but this release — for any Rick James freak — is pretty close to it.

Biography

Born: 01 February 1948 in Buffalo, NY

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

In the late '70s, when the fortunes of Motown Records seemed to be flagging, Rick James came along and rescued the company, providing funky hits that updated the label's style and saw it through into the mid-'80s. Actually, James had been with Motown earlier, though nothing had come of it. After growing up in Buffalo and running away to join the Naval Reserves, he ran away from the Navy to Toronto, where he was in a band with future Buffalo Springfield members Neil Young...
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Rarities Edition: Street Songs, Rick James
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