20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Rick James
As a singer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist and all-around showstopper, Rick James was Prince’s equal in the ‘80s R&B arena. But in contrast to Prince’s unwieldy, sometimes impenetrable discography, James’s work can be neatly summarized in the ten songs included on 20th Century Masters. James was equally adept at writing ineffably catchy funk songs (“Mary Jane”) and dreamy ballads (“Ebony Eyes”). His career straddled — and in many ways, instigated — the shift between the fat, big-band funk of the ‘70s (“Bustin’ Out”) and the programmed, icy funk of the early ‘80s (“Cold Blooded,” “17”). In between, he delivered several dance-floor anthems that belong neither to the ‘70s nor the ‘80s, but fuse elements of funk, disco and boogie, and have therefore become timeless (“Give It To Me Baby,” “You and I”). Of course, the most definitive Rick James song will forever be “Super Freak,” if only because it's the hit that adequately reflects its author’s eccentric-yet-irresistible personality.