Spin #30 : Rick James : Street Songs
Musicians on Album: Rick James (Lead Voclas, Guitar, Bass, Percussion/Drums, Timbales &Tympani), Stone City Band: Levi Ruffen Jnr. (Strong ensemble, OBX Synthesizer, Background Vocals), Tom Mc Dermott (Guitar, Percussion), Erskine Williams (Keyboards, Clavinet, Hammond B3), Oscar Alston (Bass, Percussion), Lanise Hughes (Drums). Punk Funk Horns: Daniel LeMelle (Flute, Alto & Tenor Saxophone), Cliff Ervin (Trumpet, Piccolo, Fluegelhorn), John Ervin (Trombone, Flute), Gerald Albright (Tenor Flute on 'Fire and Desire', 'Make Love To Me'). Plus a tonne of additional musicians!!
Rick James : Street Songs Year Released : 1981 (repress from 2019) Produced by Rick James Label: Gordy Price Range: $40-50AUD Speed: 33 1/3RPM Album Before : Garden Of Love (1980) Album After : Throwin' Down (1982) Further Listening : Never Too Much - Luther Vandross (1981) LP : 1 x Red LP Mood for enjoying: If you put this on your turntable on a Friday night you will be up and about dancing and grooving. Pretty uplifting sounding record! Track Listing:
LP Side A
Give It To Me Baby - 4:08
Ghetto Life - 4:20
Make Love To Me - 4:48
Mr. Policeman - 4:17
Side B Super Freak - 3:27
Fire and Desire - 7:17
Call Me Up - 3:53
Below The Funk (Pass The J) - 2:36
What's in the Sleeve ? 1 x Red LP and lyrics printed on the inner slip. If they don't come with an inner poly bag, I always add one to prolong the records for our children.
"When I was a young boy, Growin' up in the ghetto, Hangin' out on corners, Singin' with the fellas, Lookin' for the cute chicks " ~ Ghetto Life - Side A
Welcome to Spin #30 - Rick James - Street Songs
Time to change it up a bit from the thrash metal of our previous spin (Click here for Spin#29 - 'God Hates Us All' - Slayer). This week Night Kat Kiz and myself are spinning the funky tunes of Buffalo born Rick James and his 1981 album 'Street Songs'. It is also our 30th Spin!
I stumbled across this album back in the early 2010's and was able to find a copy in 2019 on red wax. If you like lots of synthesizers, funk beats and the 80's then you will love this one. Like James says in the liner notes, "This record may be hazardous to your feet".
I will play this one loud on the loungeroom set up as I want our children to enjoy the funky bass and dance along. I have the loungeroom record hutch (custom made by me) ready to go, Sherwood Turntable (PM-9805) and Receiver (RX-4508), along with 4 x Sherwood bookshelf speakers spaced out evenly across the main wall.
Look at this cool cat! Rick James stomping all over the mixing boards
Drop the Needle (of course means place the stylus nicely on your wax):
As I hold 'Street Songs' in my hands and place it on the turntable, I notice the killer red thigh-high boots James is wearing on the record cover. He is standing on the street, holding a guitar and leaning up against the lamp post (obviously up to something funky). The back cover has James and two ladies being searched by a police officer. Instantly, it's recognisable as the 80's and also makes me think of the Dave Chappelle skit about Rick James. (If you don't know what I am talking about, search for the clips on you tube). Even though I don't usually like red text on top of photos, it is still legible on the front cover. Note to anyone making anything, red text layered on top of photos does not work (I'm looking at you Eagles - 'Self-Titled' album).
The first track that you hear as the stylus hits the grooves is the absolute banger, 'Give It To Me Baby'. I would say that this and 'Super Freak' would be his biggest and most recognisable songs. If you listen to this song without holding the lyrics in your hand, then you would find it very easy to bop along with. The lyrics are quite forward and the film clip is pretty funny - "When I was high as the sky, Out all night just dancing. You say let's go home, that's the time I start romancin'. The back beats, horns and synths are well choreographed throughout. I like how this red LP is dead flat and pressed really well by Gordy records. The bass line on this track would be hard for anyone to not bounce around the living room with. I know our daughter gets her shoulders shimmying and our son jumps up and down to this one. I just wish that we had some bigger speakers so I could hear a lot more of the lows of this album - it is built for bass and dance clubs.
'Ghetto Life' has a catchy guitar introduction mixed with some handclapping and a solid funky bassline!!!! (of course it would, it is an 80's funk song). This is probably my favourite track on the album (trying to not pick the two obvious songs). There are beats on this track that Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre sound like they were influenced by and I enjoyed the back and forth between James and the deeper voice. "One thing 'bout the ghetto, you don't have to hurry, It'll be there tomorrow, so people don't you worry". The song fades out into the slower and passionately sung track, 'Make Love To Me'. This one would be on par with Barry White for tracks to put on to set the mood.
The third song has such a well written breakdown when James sings, "Feel so good don't wanna come down *BOP* Make Love to me baby". There is backing vocals throughout and it has a nice flow from the upbeat songs prior to this one. No matter how drug affected he was during the recording of this album, he had labelled it as a make or break. If this album didn't work out he said to band members that he would become a carpenter after the disappointment of the album before 'Street Songs'. I'm glad that he was coherent enough to put out his pinnacle record.
James has self proclaimed his style of music as 'Punk Funk' and it works so well on the next song, 'Mr Policeman'. Written as a tribute to Bob Marley and also a few childhood friends killed on the streets. It's another upbeat song to end Side A but the lyrics are quite sombre. I wish I knew more about the instruments being played on each track but the horns arrangement sounds great. Makes me want to listen to another album that I've been recommended to hear - Sign 'O' the Times by Prince (thanks @WaxxLyrical).
Side A comes to an end with James taking us out vocally before we realise that it's time to flip the LP over to Side B.
The instantly recognisable first song, by the first sound on Side B is 'Super Freak', that was later sampled in 1990 by MC Hammer for his track, 'U Can't Touch This'. This is a HUGE song that has James talking about a girl that is "the kind you won't take home to mother". This track is so easy to sing along too as you are grooving around the room and sadly, James didn't release a bigger song after this. I don't think anyone would want to be called a 'Super Freak' but apparently Nicki Minaj doesn't mind in her new song 'Super Freaky Girl'. She has sampled a lot of James' song in this one and it's quickly becoming one of the biggest songs of 2022. Check it out here.
The longest track on the album, coming in at over 7 minutes long, is 'Fire and Desire'. This track has a lot of spoken word by James and Teena Marie. There is a nice moment when James stops his monologue to sing, "Love them & leave them" and really stretches out the word love to great effect. It's a song about the one that got away and sounds funny after listening to a track called 'Super Freak'. This album is up there with Isaac Hayes 'Hot Buttered Soul' and Curtis Harding's 'Face Your Fear' in terms of the mood it creates. 'Street Songs' is a very chilled and relaxed feeling record at times which gives us as listeners time to dance and time to rest. I highly recommend you go out and add this one to your collection if you are lacking in 80's records, RnB and Funk.
As the next song starts, I love the sound of the phone dialling and ringing sampled on 'Call Me Up'. James is singing "Love me tender baby, I don't like no pain". The bassline throughout compliments the horns again and picks up the pace of the song towards the end for a big finish. Pretty much James is telling a woman that he will be her late night booty call. There is a little bit of spoken word here too where a woman rings up and says, "Hello, Can I please speak with Slick Rick". The song fades out and brings us to the last track on the album.
'Below The Funk (Pass The J)' is a song about his hometown of Buffalo and spittin' the truth about his upbringing. It is also song about drugs "I said pass the joint" and raises the beat again to close the album. There is a funny lyric where James says "Now the players hangin' round the main strip, Actin' like they're on a trip. If they had my cash they could be hip. But its strange the gossip is so tragic, they call me a faggot, me and all my women laugh at it". He sounds like he had a tough childhood and didn't know how to keep away from the drugs and alcohol in his later years. Before you know it the song has ended and the funky stylings of Slick Rick are over for now. Shout out to the loveable Buffalo Sabres, surely we will win the Cup within the next decade. Hell, I'll take making the playoffs even to tide me over.
So now you can take a seat and relax your feet after the solid funk of Rick James' 'Street Songs' stops playing. 'Street Songs' is such a fun album and I will be looking at getting a few other Rick James albums in future. Even just looking at his other album covers, you wont be disappointed. Check out his discography here. If you enjoyed this weeks Spin then make sure to get involved on our social pages and mid week sneak peaks. I will be really interested in what you all think about this album and always happy to talk music. Wishing my father a very happy birthday for yesterday and hope you enjoyed this one.
Until our next Spin, be Kind to people from Buffalo and be Kind to your Wax!