Rick James


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After an eight-year stay at Motown, Rick James moved to Reprise/Warner Bros. with 1988's Wonderful. By that time, the funkster wasn't nearly as popular as he had been in the late '70s and early '80s, and he hoped to make a major comeback with this album. Reprise was delighted when the single "Loosey's Rap" (which features rapper Roxanne Shanté) went to number one on Billboard's R&B singles chart, but Wonderful didn't contain any other major hits -- and it isn't hard to understand why. This is a very uneven effort that usually misses the mark, although it has its moments. To James' credit, he doesn't spend the entire album trying to recycle Street Songs, and he doesn't inundate listeners with pale imitations of "Super Freak" and "Give It to Me Baby." The singer tries different things, sometimes incorporating pop/rock, synth funk, and hip-hop elements. However, only a few of the songs are memorable -- most notably, the above-mentioned "Loosey's Rap," the Cameo-minded "So Tight," and the dramatic ballad "I Believe in U." Wonderful (which was James' only album for Reprise) was an improvement over 1986's The Flag, but that isn't saying much because The Flag was the weakest album of James' career. Hardly essential, Wonderful is only recommended to completists.

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