Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Rick James - Cold Blooded

Yesterday (August 5th) marked the thirtieth anniversary of Cold Blooded, the seventh studio album from funk master and Buffalo-native Rick James. This record charted at number 16 on the US Billboard Hot 200 and number 1 on the US Billboard R&B chart

Side one opens with the declaration “U Bring The Freak Out”. As the third single, it fell short of the US Billboard Hot 100 (it peaked at number 101) however it did very well on the US Billboard R&B chart (it reached number 16). This song about unleashing repressed sexual desires has a heavy beat and a funky grind, and it instantly makes me want to get up to dance..

"Cold Blooded" - It charted at number 93 in the UK, number 40 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 17 on the US Billboard Dance chart, and number 1 on the US Billboard R&B chart. It has been said that James wrote the song about his relationship with actress Linda Blair whom he dated in the early 80's. The lyrics of this mid-tempo grind describe a woman who is sexy hot yet comes across so cool and composed.

Next up with “Ebony Eyes”, a duet with fellow Motown label star Smokey Robinson. This sensual slow-jam went to number 96 in the UK, number 43 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 22 on the US Billboard R&B chart. Robinson opens the verses as he tries to explain his love for a woman. Despite his beautifully poetic words, he fails to get the message across and turns to James, like his wing-man, for an assist. I really like how the voices of these two R&B legends harmonize together.

"1, 2, 3 (You, Her and Me)", as the title suggests, is about a guy who proposes a three-way between himself, his girl friend and another lovely woman who catches his eye. The track was also the B-side to the "Ebony Eyes" single.

Side two begins with "Doin' It". It keeps up the dance beats as it embraces the building energy between a couple.

"New York Town", with its conversation between James and a cabbie, instantly brought to my mind Prince's "Lady Cab Driver" and "All the Critics Love U In New York" from the year before. But that is really the only thing the songs have in common; James goes down a completely different route as he celebrates the Big Apple's night life.

The previous track seamlessly rolls into the next one musically. "P.I.M.P. and the S.I.M.P." sort of takes a classic nursery rhyme refrain and spins it around to tell the tragic story of a big city hooker named Mary. Grandmaster Flash guests on the track to lay down a rap near the end.

Things slow down with the ballad "Tell Me (What You Want)". After about a minute of a breathy opening monologue delivered by guest Billy Dee Williams, James breaks out his signature falsetto. This track is actually the first one on the record that I found myself ready to jump past; I think James has gone down this road many times before with far superior results.

The album closes with "Unity", an under two minute plea for universal brotherhood that spotlights James alone at his piano.

I had not heard this entire album prior to doing my review. It did take me some work to track down many of the tracks though as this one has not been released on the digital market as of yet. In fact, I could not find any CDs the album available for sale on-line - only vinyl copies which went for a very high price. So, this one falls in the rare category. If you're looking for a listen, try checking out YouTube as I did.

Overall, as a long-time Rick James fan, I enjoyed Cold Blooded. From back in the early 80's, I was very familiar with the hit singles that played on the radio; they really help to make a solid first side for this record. For me, however, the second side sort of trails off a bit.

Looking for more Rick James reviews? Check out my links below.

- For 1978’s debut Come Get It!, click here.

- For 1981’s Street Songs, click here.

- For 1982’s Throwin’ Down, click here.


HERC said...

Liked the sparse title track when I heard it - thought it sounded a lot like Patrick Simmons' "So Wrong" from earlier in 1983.

Bought the album on vinyl because the 12" single was sold out (which turned out to be a smart move because the 12" was just the album track - no remix or extended version) and then picked up CD cheap at Zia Records shortly after they opened their first store in town in 1991 or 1992 just to have it on shelf.

It turns out the disc is very rare, like you said. No idea why though I'm guessing the lack of a digital version has to do with the guest stars on the album.

The album has glimpses of classic Rick James punk-funk and mary-jane soul but it all comes off very weak, like he was trying to appeal to everyone rather than just his fans; I'd been one since first hearing "You And I" on the great K-Tel album Starburst.

Cold Blooded was the last album of new material I purchased by Mr. James.

HERC said...

Slyly posting this on the anniversary of James Ambrose Johnson Jr.'s passing or just coincidence?

Martin Maenza said...

Herc, total accident on my part (though kind of a well timed one). As I noted, it came out originally on August 5th but since I had two for that day I bumped this one day later.