Rick James

Rarities Edition: Street Songs

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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.

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