After returning to the U.S. from London, where he fronted the blues band Mainline
, Rick James
cut one album with White Cane before he turned to his own solo venture. By 1977, he'd begun working with the Stone City Band
, emerging at the end of the year with an album's worth of delicious funk-rock fusion. Released in spring 1978, Come Get It!
was a triumphant debut, truly the sum of all that had gone before, at the same time as unleashing the rudiments of what would become not only his trademark sound, but also his mantra, his manifesto -- his self proclaimed punk-funk. Packed with intricate songs that are full of effusive energy, Come Get It!
is marvelously hybridized funk, so tightly structured that, although they have the outward feel of funk's freewheeling jam, they never once cross the line into an uncontrolled frenzy. This is best demonstrated across the monumental, eight-plus-minute "You and I." With enough funk bubbling under the surface to supplant the outward disco sonics of the groove, but brought back to earth via James
' vocal interpolations, "You and I" became James
' first R&B chart hit, effortlessly slamming into the top spot. "Mary Jane," meanwhile, was James
' homage to marijuana -- honoring the love affair through slang, it dipped into the Top Five in fall 1978. More importantly, though, it also offered up a remarkable preview of his subsequent vocal development. With nods to Earth, Wind & Fire
on "Sexy Lady," Motown sonics on "Dream Maker," the passionate "Hollywood," and the classic club leanings of "Be My Lady," it's obvious that James
was still very much in the throes of transition, still anticipating his future onslaught of hits and superstardom. Many of the songs here have a tendency toward the disco ethics that were inescapable in 1978, and have been faulted as such; nevertheless, what James
achieved on this LP was remarkably fresh, and would prove vitally important to funk as it grew older during the next decade.