In the late '80s, most of the great funksters who had emerged in the 1970s knew that their best days were behind them. Sure, many of them were receiving royalty checks when young hip-hoppers sampled their classic recordings (assuming that they had kept their publishing rights), but they were no longer seeing their names at the top of the charts. But Cameo was another story. Unlike other horn bands that were formed in the 1970s, Cameo had no problem reinventing itself as a high-tech, downsized, hip-hop-influenced synth-funk/urban contemporary trio. 1986's Word Up!, in fact, is one of Cameo's finest and most essential albums. Word Up! was an incredibly tough act to follow, and the album that followed it, 1988's Machismo, isn't as strong or as consistent. Machismo isn't a bad album; a few of the tunes are excellent, including "Skin I'm In" (a poignant commentary on racism), the rock-influenced "Promiscuous," and the jazz-minded "In the Night" (which features the late jazz trumpet innovator Miles Davis). But Machismo isn't as successful when Cameo tries to recycle Word Up!; there can only be one Word Up!, and when Larry Blackmon and his colleagues try to recycle it, they end up sounding formulaic. But while Machismo isn't among Cameo's essential releases, it has more plusses than minuses and fared well among its hardcore fans.
by Alex Henderson