Rick James - Deeper Still (2007)

Rick James
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It is still difficult to speak of Rick James with past tense references. Three years since his death have seemingly flown by. Fans of the late soul funkateer will revel in the fact that the Stone City Records has now released Deeper Still, his final studio album.

The music of Rick James has always elicited some level of shock value. A song could contain a lyric that made you rewind and take a second listen just to be sure that what you heard was exactly what you thought you'd heard. Be advised -- there are several instances of "shock" on Deeper Still. However, the sting of the highly biographical nature of the lyrics is bittersweet because it reveals a departed soul who was terribly misinterpreted by the throng of outsiders that viewed his life from seemingly blurred exteriors.

It is still difficult to speak of Rick James with past tense references. Three years since his death have seemingly flown by. Fans of the late soul funkateer will revel in the fact that the Stone City Records has now released Deeper Still, his final studio album.

The music of Rick James has always elicited some level of shock value. A song could contain a lyric that made you rewind and take a second listen just to be sure that what you heard was exactly what you thought you'd heard. Be advised -- there are several instances of "shock" on Deeper Still. However, the sting of the highly biographical nature of the lyrics is bittersweet because it reveals a departed soul who was terribly misinterpreted by the throng of outsiders that viewed his life from seemingly blurred exteriors.

The title track is currently receiving airplay on urban stations across the nation. Rightfully deserving of the attention, this mid-tempo mellow groove shines as it draws you into a committed relationship about which James sings that is built on a forever love. It also sets the stage for a project filled with songs that exhibit a transformation and separation from the flamboyant, carefree persona that James made infamous over the years.

"Taste" is biographical in nature, and speaks of some of the pitfalls that befell James over the years, as he sought happiness in the name of love. The realization of all that is really important seems to have become evident to James a little too late. "Stroke" is another song that peels away the layers of the personal challenges that led James, as he describes his visits, to "hell and back," finding "lots of crack" and spending time inside the penitentiary. During this entire period, inevitably in a rehabilitative nature, James spent his time doing what was near and dear to his heart: creating and composing music.

"Do You Wanna Play," the strongest song on this collection, is a wonderful ballad that features guest appearances from two mature male R&B heartthrobs who are not heard from often enough (Howard Hewett and Johnny Gill) and reinforces that this album was meant to become a powerful comeback vehicle for Rick James. Closing in classic Rick James style is "Funk Wit Me," a song filled with risqué language that makes you wonder if he really sang what you'd thought you heard.

Deeper Still is a strong posthumous release that, in its diversity and in James' strong, sincere delivery, reminds us of the broad talent that Rick James possessed and why, years after his commercial peak, he was still an artist of importance. Highly recommended.

By Detrel Howell

 
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