Rick James

Bustin' Out: The Very Best of Rick James

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In the late '70s and early '80s, Rick James did more than anyone to challenge George Clinton's place on the funk throne. Eventually, his music would turn into a very tired cliché, but at his creative peak, James was among the most exciting and vital artists funk had to offer. Summarizing his Motown output from 1978-1986 and offering four new tracks from 1994 as well, this two-CD anthology reminds you just how great he once was, but it provides evidence of his artistic decline as well. Though some of the songs are mediocre, most are outstanding. Even the most casual funk fans owe it to themselves to savor such rowdy classics as "Super Freak," "You and I," "Love Gun," "Give It to Me Baby," and "Ghetto Life." James was equally superb when it came to soul ballads -- and anyone who thinks otherwise should give a serious listen to "Fire and Desire" (a stunning duet with Teena Marie), "Dream Maker," and "Ebony Eyes" (which features Smokey Robinson). Sadly, "Cold Blooded" and "17" illustrate how formulaic James' funk often sounded by the mid-'80s. Meanwhile, some of the new material (including an enjoyable remake of Norman Connors' "You Are My Starship") indicated that he had the potential to make a comeback with the right guidance. Boasting many more pluses than minuses, this set is the best place for novices to start.

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