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Rick James

Superfreak Live 1982 DVD

Review by Gary Hill

The funk master himself, Rick James may not be with us anymore, but this 1982 concert is now available on DVD. The release has its good and bad points, but overall is an enjoyable record of the live power of this musical legend. There are segments of James' arrangements here that call to mind Frank Zappa, but fans of funky R & B ala Earth Wind and Fire and Tower of Power will certainly know James as one of the originators. The live performance here is exceptionally strong, and James fronts an impressive outfit completely with back up singers and horn section.

The stage show even calls to mind Alice Cooper at times - particularly the segment where a uniformed policeman is beaten to the ground by various members of the band. The various outfits (James sports a whole ensemble of them himself) seem like a Technicolor take on Kiss like costuming, minus the Kabuki. Truly in the day James, along with Parliament Funkadelic were R & B's answer to Kiss like stage productions. James even had an Eddie Van Halen type lead guitarist here, and his musical approach was a less avante garde one than that taken by George Clinton and his cohorts. These guys had a more straightforward approach, blending rock, R & B and funk into a very entertaining collage of sounds. They were arguably the best of the genre.

So, with all the good stuff going on here, why is this not a better than great release? Well, first the sound recording, most likely quite good for 1982 leaves a bit to be desired in 2005. It's clear and well balanced, but just a little flat. It doesn't live up to modern sound standards. The other problem here is some annoying titles that come over top. My guess is that these were included so that the tracks could be used individually on some MTV like show. It's too bad that there wasn't an original copy kept without those. The only other issue is that there are no bonuses included - only this one concert video from Germany.

So, for Rick James fans, this one is a killer performance caught live. It's a great chronicle of the live power of this funky rocker/R &B master. It would have been nice to have better sound and some extras, but this one does fine for those of us who miss the man.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at https://garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2005.

 
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