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Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Collection of Cameo

An outlandish, in-your-face stage presence, a strange sense of humor, and a hard-driving funk sound that criss-crossed a few musical boundaries earned Cameo countless comparisons to Parliament/Funkadelic in their early days. However, Cameo eventually wore off accusations of being derivative by transcending their influences and outlasting almost every single one of them. Throughout the '70s and '80s, the group remained up with the times and occasionally crept ahead of them, such that they became influences themselves upon younger generations of R&B and hip-hop acts. By the time the group's popularity started to fizzle in the late '80s, a series of R&B chart hits -- ranging from greasy funk workouts to synthesized funk swingers to dripping ballads -- was left in their wake. Further separating Cameo from their forebears, they didn't have a diaper-clad guitarist. Instead, they had a codpiece-wearing lead vocalist.

That vocalist was Larry Blackmon. In 1974, the ex-Juilliard student and New York City club-goer instigated a funk band with a membership of 13 called the New York City Players. Blackmon, Tomi Jenkins, and Nathan Leftenant formed the group's nucleus. The Casablanca label signed the group to their Chocolate City offshoot, and shortly after that, the group changed its name to Cameo. Their excellent debut album, 1977's Cardiac Arrest, was highlighted by four singles. Three of those hit the Billboard R&B chart: "Rigor Mortis" (number 33), "Funk Funk" (number 20), and "Post Mortem" (number 70). Although the group was clearly inspired by elder funk groups like Parliament, Funkadelic, and the Ohio Players, Cardiac Arrest made Cameo's case for belonging in the same division an open-and-shut one.

In an attempt to keep the ball rolling, 1978 saw the release of Cameo's second and third albums. Neither We All Know Who We Are nor Ugly Ego were as solid as the debut, but the group's singular characteristics were becoming increasingly evident. The winding, horn-punctuated "It's Serious" (from We All Know Who We Are) narrowly missed the Top 20 of the R&B chart, while "Insane" (from Ugly Ego) dipped just inside it, peaking at number 17. The best halves of these two albums would've made a fine sophomore LP.

1979's Secret Omen, featuring a disco-fied re-visiting of Cardiac Arrest's "Find My Way" and the magnificently funky and slightly loony "I Just Want to Be" (a number-three R&B chart hit), was stacked with fine album cuts and brought Cameo back as a group that excelled in the LP format. "Sparkle" was one of their best ballads, a sinewy number that hit the Top Ten. Five albums released between 1980 and 1983 (Cameosis, Feel Me, Knights of the Sound Table, Alligator Woman, Style) brought about a slight dip in quality on the album front. Despite an abundance of filler on each record, none of those albums were strict disappointments, delivering hot Top 20 R&B singles like "Shake Your Pants," "We're Goin' Out Tonight," "Keep It Hot," "Freaky Dancin'" "Just Be Yourself," "Flirt," and "Style."

One of the most significant ripples in Cameo's time line came during that period, in 1982, when they packed up and set up shop in Atlanta. Pared down to a quintet and located in a less hectic city, the group became bigger fish in a smaller pond. Blackmon even started his own label, Atlanta Artist. The label's first LP, Style, also marked a significant shift in sound, with synthesizers taking on a pronounced role. Paydirt was struck with 1984's She's Strange; the title cut, a late-night slithery smolder, topped the R&B chart and eclipsed the Top 50 of the pop chart, kicking off a remarkable three-album run that made Cameo one of the most popular groups of the '80s. Single Life and Word Up!, released respectively in 1985 and 1986, continued the hot streak. The singles from those two albums -- "Attack Me With Your Love," "Single Life," "Word Up," "Candy," and "Back and Forth" -- held down the Top Five plateau of the R&B chart. "Word Up" even went to number six on the pop chart, giving them their biggest bite of the mainstream. The song was everywhere.

What goes up must come down, and that's exactly what happened to Cameo. Despite the fact that two more singles -- "Skin I'm In" and "I Want It Now" -- scaled up to number five on the R&B chart, neither Machismo nor Real Men Wear Black performed well as albums. After 1991's Emotional Violence, the group's profile was lowered significantly, but they did tour sporadically to the delight of hardcore fans as well as plenty of misguided people who thought Cameo was all about "Word Up" and nothing more. Notably, Blackmon spent a few years of the '90s at Warner Bros., as the vice president of A&R.

Cameo's presence continued to be felt throughout the early 2000s, not only through extensive sample use and less tangible influences upon younger artists and producers. Several retrospectives have kept the group's music alive: Casablanca's 1993 compilation The Best of Cameo is an excellent point of entry. Mercury's 12" Collection & More, released in 1999, covers the group's best dancefloor moments. 2002's spectacular Anthology, a double-disc set also released by Mercury, covers a lot of ground and does the group justice as a total package. Allmusic by Andy Kellman

Album: Cardiac Arrest (1977)

01. Still Feels Good
02. Post Mortem
03. Smile
04. Funk, Funk
05. Find My Way
06. Rigor Mortis
07. Good Times
08. Stay By My Side

Album: We All Know Who We Are (1978)

01. Inflation
02. C On The Funk
03. Why Have I Lost You
04. Stand Up
05. We All Know Who We Are
06. It's Serious
07. It's Over

Album: Ugly Ego (1978)

01. I'll Be With You
02. Insane
03. Give Love A Chance
04. Ugly Ego
05. I Want You
06. Anything You Wanna Do
07. Friend To Me
08. Two Of Us

Album: Secret Omen (1979)

01. Energy
02. I Just Want To Be
03. Find My Way
04. Macho
05. The Rock
06. Sparkle
07. New York

Album: Cameosis (1980)

01. Cameosis
02. Shake Your Pants
03. Please You
04. We'Re Goin' Out Tonight
05. I Care For You
06. On The One
07. Why Have I Lost You

Album: Feel Me (1980)

01. Throw It Down
02. Your Love Takes Me Out
03. Keep It Hot
04. Feel Me
05. Is This The Way
06. Roller Skates
07. Better Days

Album: Knights Of The Sound Table (1981)

01. Knights By Knights
02. Freaky Dancin'
03. I Never Knew
04. Use It Or Lose It
05. The Sound Table
06. Don't Be So Cool
07. I'll Always Stay
08. I Like It

Album: Alligator Woman (1982)

01. Be Yourself
02. Soul Army
03. Flirt
04. Enjoy Your Life
05. Alligator Woman
06. I Owe It All To You
07. For You

Album: Style (1983)

01. Aphrodisiac
02. This Life Is Not For Me
03. You'Re A Winner
04. I Can't Help Falling In Love
05. Serenity [Interlude]
06. Style
07. Cameo's Dance
08. Let's Not Talk Slot
09. Slow Moving
10. Heaven Only Knows

Album: She's Strange(1984)

01. She's Strange
02. Love You Anyway
03. Talkin Out Of The Side Of Your
04. Tribute To Bob Marley
05. Groove With You
06. Hangin' Downtown
07. Lé Ve Toi!

Album: Single Life (1985)

01. Attack Me With Your Love
02. Single Life
03. I'Ve Got Your Image
04. A Good-Bye
05. I'll Never Look For Love
06. Urban Warrior
07. Little Boys - Dangerous Toys

Album: Word Up (1986)

1. Word Up
2. Candy
3. Back And Forth
4. Don't Be Lonely
5. She's Mine
6. Fast, Fierce & Funny
7. You Can Have The World

Album: Machismo (1988)

01. You Make Me Work
02. I Like The World
03. Promiscuous
04. In The Night [Featuring Miles Davis]
05. Skin I'm In
06. Pretty Girls
07. Honey
08. Soul Tightened
09. Dkwig

Album: Real Men... Wear Black (1990)

01. Close Quarters
02. I Want It Now
03. Me
04. Attitude
05. Get Paid
06. Am I Bad Enough
07. Time, Fire & Space
08. Nan-Yea
09. Just A Broken Heart

Album: Emotional Violence (1992)

01. Emotional Violence
02. Money
03. Raw But Tasty
04. Front Street
05. Kid Don't Believe It
06. Another Love
07. Don't Crash
08. Love Yourself
09. Nothing Less Than Love
10. That Kind Of Guy

Album: The Best Of Cameo (1993)

01. Word Up
02. Single Life
03. Candy
04. Shake Your Pants
05. Rigor Mortis
06. Attack Me With Your Love
07. Talkin' Out The Side Of Your Neck
08. Sparkle
09. Back & Forth
10. Flirt
11. She's Strange (12' Rap Version)
12. I Just Want To Be
13. Skin I'm In
14. It's Over

Album: In The Face Of Funk (1994)

01. In the Face of Funk
02. Slyde
03. You Are My Love
04. Desire
05. Don't Say It's Over
06. BSU
07. The Man
08. A Special Love
09. We Can Make It Happen
10. Where

Album: The Best Of Cameo, Vol 2 (1996)

01. Don't Be So Cool
02. I Want It Now
03. In the Night
04. We're Goin' Out Tonight
05. Why Have I Lost You
06. Hangin' Downtown
07. It's Serious
08. Freaky Dancin'
09. Keep It Hot
10. Be Yourself
11. Alligator Woman
12. Insane
13. We All Know Who We Are
14. Feel Me
15. Your Love Takes Me Out

Album: Greatest Hits (1998)

01. Word Up!
02. Single Life
03. Candy
04. She's Strange
05. Attack Me With Your Love
06. Back And Forth
07. You Make Me Work
08. I Just Want To Be
09. Sparkle
10. Skin I'm In
11. Freaky Dancin'
12. Keep It Hot

Album: Hits Collection: The Best Of Cameo (1998)

01. Word Up
02. She's Strange
03. Candy
04. Rigor Mortis
05. Attack Me With Your Love
06. Sparkle
07. She's Mine
08. Be Yourself
09. Freaky Dancing
10. A Good-bye
11. Post Mortem
12. Keep It Hot
13. I Just Want To Be
14. Flirt
15. You Make Me Work
16. Shake Your Pants
17. Single Life
18. Back And Forth

Album: Ballads Collection (1998)

01. Why Have I Lost You (version 1)
02. Sparkle
03. It's Over
04. Feel Me
05. We All Know Who We Are
06. Hangin' Downtown
07. Love You Anyway
08. Don't Be Lonely
09. I Owe It All To You
10. I'll Always Stay
11. I Never Knew
12. Why Have I Lost You (version 2)

Album: 12 inch Collection And More (1999)

01. I Just Want To Be (Original 12 inch Extended Mix)
02. Word Up! (Original 12 inch Club Mix)
03. Shake Your Pants (Original 12 inch Club Mix)
04. She's Strange (Original 12 inch Club Mix)
05. Candy (Original 12 inch UK Mix)
06. Back And Forth (12 inch Larry Blackmon Mix)
07. Single Life (Original 12 inch UK Mix By Larry Blackmon)
08. Attack Me With Your Love (Original 12 inch Club Mix)
09. Rigor Mortis (Original 12 inch Mix)
10. Room 123 (She's Strange) (Original 12 inch Rap Version)

Album: Sexy Sweet Thing (2000)

01. Sexy Sweet Thing
02. Antidote
03. I Wake Up
04. She Wants Some More
05. Time for Love
06. Your Love
07. Same Dream
08. You Make Me Crazy
09. Another Crazy Day
10. Ready for Love
11. Pre Rolled Blunt
12. Special Love
13. Baby It's You

Album: Anthology (2002)


01. Rigor Mortis
02. Post Mortem
03. Funk Funk
04. Find My Way (TGIF version)
05. It's Serious
06. We All Know Who We Are
07. Insane
08. I Just Want To Be (12" version)
09. Sparkle
10. Shake Your Pants
11. We're Goin' Out Tonight
12. Why Have I Lost You (version 2)
13. Keep It Hot
14. Feel Me


01. Freaky Dancin'
02. Don't Be So Cool
03. Just Be Yourself
04. Flirt
05. Alligator Woman/Secrets Of Time
06. Style (single version)
07. She's Strange
08. Talkin' Out The Side Of Your Neck
09. Hangin' Downtown
10. Attack Me With Your Love
11. Single Life
12. Word Up
13. Candy
14. Back & Forth
15. Skin I'm In (single version)
16. I Want It Now (single version)



Anonymous said...

Thank you so much!!! You guys are the best!!!
I appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! For all this timeless music, I appreciate it very much.

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