Rick James: 10 Essential Tracks

The punk-funk king gets freaky on everything from a 1966 Neil Young collaboration to a groundbreaking 1988 rap duet

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Mary Jane Girls, "All Night Long" (1983)

The Mary Jane Girls' first two albums contained the most consistent, tuneful and least problematic work of Rick James' career, and the immaculately slinky, heavily sampled, not-quite-slow jam "All Night Long" was his greatest composition. From the pillowy bassline and get-comfy "Hey, boy" come-on to the cozily melodic vocal touches, tinkly synth sprinkles and masterfully laconic production, the whole song flowed with a river-y certainty. Basically a solo project for main Stone City back-up singer JoJo McDuffie and whomever tagged along, the MJGs' image was similar to James', but less kooky and crude. Basically, it's the only Rick James music that doesn't sound like everybody's on drugs. A third MJGs album was recorded but never released, due to James' legal and contractual issues with Motown (not to mention growing crack habit).

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