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Anthology Review

by William Ruhlmann

Mercury's Cameo Anthology supersedes the two single-disc Best of Cameo volumes issued in the mid-'90s with a lengthy two-CD set that comprehensively chronicles the group's tenure on the Chocolate City and Atlanta Artists labels in the 1970s and '80s and just into the '90s. More casual fans may want to stick with the discount-priced 20th Century Masters -- The Millennium Collection: The Best of Cameo best-of, since this is a band best remembered for one particularly successful phase of a long career, the mid-'80s, when their new wave-influenced funk style led to the chart-topping R&B and Top Ten pop hit "Word Up." On Anthology, you don't get to that point in Cameo's story until 12 tracks into the second disc. What you do get is 23 of their 26 Top 40 R&B hits, beginning with 1977's "Rigor Mortis" and ending with 1990's "I Want It Now." (Inexplicably, one of the omissions is the 1988 Top Five R&B hit "You Make Me Work.") Along the way, Cameo can be heard to evolve from a Parliament/Funkadelic-style freeform funk band into a more disciplined unit who often sounds very similar to Earth, Wind & Fire, notably on the tracks "We're Goin' out Tonight" (1980) and "Feel Me" (1981). With "Freaky Dancin'," which appropriately opens the second disc, however, bandleader Larry Blackmon is starting to bring in his own interpretation of rock's new wave in the form of more aggressive playing while maintaining the funk feel, and by 1984's "She's Strange" he had found a sound for his band that would push them to a new level of popularity. That success would prove relatively short-lived, but by the time Cameo faded from the top of the charts in the early '90s they had built up quite a library of dance-oriented R&B, and most of the best of it is here.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Cameo 05:23
2 Cameo 04:14 Amazon
3 Cameo 04:09 Amazon
4 Cameo 04:09
5 Cameo 06:38 Amazon
6 Cameo 04:18 Amazon
7 Cameo 07:13 Amazon
8 Cameo 04:08
9 Cameo 05:08 Amazon
10 Cameo 04:34 Amazon
11 Cameo 04:29
12 Cameo 04:21 Amazon
13 Cameo 05:41 Amazon
14 Cameo 03:54
15 Cameo 04:38 Amazon
16 Cameo 04:33 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick