SoundaLike with Rick James

For Uni we’ve been tasked with recording a track. the aim of the project is to record it as close to the original as possible. for this project my co workers and i have chosen super freak by Rick James.
In this blog post i’ll be looking at the track and analysing key elements of it that we’ll need to capture in the recording process.
Nevertheless, here is the track.


The songs structure is somewhat formulaic and is set out in the typical style of a Motown funk track of the time. (i.e.: intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus/outro).
Like many a Rick James song, the lyrics of “Super Freak” are obsessed with amorous concerns as they pay tribute to the kind of girl most mothers warn their sons about: “She’s a very kinky girl/The kind you don’t take home to mother/And she will never let your spirits down/Once you get her off the street.”

The music itself, is somewhat complex for what is essentially a soul-tinged pop song.
the track combines a swinging verse melody with a lengthy bridge that builds from a staccato set of call-and-response chants which transition to gospel-inflected heights and then devolves into a stomping and vibrant chorus.
Rick James’ singing of “Super Freak” keeps this track on course, with a punchy arrangement that maintains it energy throughout: the rhythm section puts out an infectious groove with the bass guitar, that bounces high and low while James engages in dueling vocals with a group of backup vocalists, (the Temptations).

The arrangement also throws in plenty of extra hooks via ad-libs and even a vibraslap. These little extras all add color without distracting from the song’s flow, including Devo-styled synth drones and the saxophone solo from Daniel LeMelle, (Danny), that finishes the song on a high note.

All these elements added up to a song that has funky grooves to spare but has an edgy sense of humor and electronic edge that made it as new wave (for the time), as it was R&B. As a result, “Super Freak” became a major crossover hit that went top-five on the soul charts and top-20 on the pop charts. It has become a favorite oldie on both soul and rock radio and also gained a new lease on life when M.C. Hammer sampled a large portion of the song’s backing track for his monolithic hit “U Can’t Touch This.”


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