Music Reviews

Ready For the World

The Best of Ready For the World: The Millennium Collection


Video did kill the radio star, and disco waylaid the funk. Tattered, beaten, and bleeding profusely, the old funketeers either died quietly in a corner like Bill Withers, made one last gasp like M. Clinton’s Atomic Dog, or sold their souls to the synthesizer. While Cameo kept it real for as long as they could, Earth Wind & Fire broke up; Kool & the Gang really should have; Stevie made schlock; and Lionel Richie made shit. However, in funk’s death throes, the music did offer up The Time, Full Force, and Ready For the World.

Boy, I used to love these Jehri-curl wunderkinds from Flint, Michigan. In the desert of ’80s R&B, they were a tall glass of funky stuff: nasal voice, whiny synths, synthesized drum kits, and all. And Melvin Riley could whine a ballad like nobody else. “Oh Sheila,” “Slide Over,” “Mary Goes ‘Round,” “Digital Display,” “Tonight,” “Long Time Coming,” and “Love You Down” pulsated and throbbed across black radio, and we loved it.

However, just like The Time and Full Force, RFTW’s glory only lasted a brief time. by their third album, R&B had left them behind, starting the flirtation with rap that has festered into a full-blown case of love. New artists with high-top fades and a Street Beat attitude, like Al B. Sure, Keith Sweat, Johnny Kemp, Bell Biv DeVoe, Guy, and Tony Toni Tone, had permanently ousted funk from the urban landscape. Though the boys washed the chemicals from their hair and sported fresh cuts, their sound was no longer relevant.

Though I find it a Mr. Fantastic stretch to include a group that only produced three albums in “The Best of 20th Century Masters” collection, I do find this greatest hits compilation a lot of fun. There are a few duds (since they were not “Masters”) and, yeah, the electro-drums sound really dated; but this album, for me, is pure pubescent pleasure.

Universal Music Group:

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