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Ready for the World: The Best of Ready for the World (20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collect

Wayne Franklin

Ready for the World

The Best of Ready for the World (20th Century Masters - the Millennium Collection)

Label: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection
US Release Date: 2002-01-15
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When the phrase "hair band" is used, images of heavy metal groups of the '80s like Twisted Sister, Kiss or Poison immediately come to mind. However, the R&B community had its own share of hair bands during the "me" decade. Do you remember the Prince protégé band Mazarati? If you ever get the chance, watch their video for "100 MPH". Frightening is the only word that describes the hairdos in that one. Then there was The Deele, the band that first introduced us to "L. A." Reid and Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds. Mr. Edmonds' perm had to sit at least a foot high. Then there was Full Force, or what happens when music, weightlifting and jheri curls collide. But perhaps the most successful R&B group of the '80s known for their hair (second only to Prince and the Revolution) was Ready for the World, six schoolmates from Flint, Michigan who shared a love for funky music, trendy clothes and curl activator.

20th Century Masters � The Millennium Collection: The Best of Ready for the World chronicles the band's meteoric rise and chart run, featuring 13 of their most popular single releases (as well as one from lead vocalist Melvin Riley's solo debut). Even though the group pictures displayed on the disc's liner card are cause for laughter or embarrassment (depending upon which end of the fashion spectrum you dwelled during the '80s), the music is guaranteed to cause head nodding, smiles, and/or spontaneous bursts of "Aww, I remember this one" to fans of this sextet.

The band, which consisted of Riley, John Eaton on bass, Greg Potts on keyboards, Gordon Strozier on lead guitar, Willie Triplett, Jr. on percussion and Gerald Valentine on drums, personified 1980s R&B. Drawing on their rock influences as well as their obvious Prince influence, they captivated the female portion of R&B's audience with their guitar-laden ballads (there are 7 on this collection), starting a black "New-Romantic movement" of sorts, inspiring a future generation of talented bands such as Mint Condition and pre-criminal activity Jodeci.

Songs like their breakthrough smash "Tonight" (from their 1985 debut Ready for the World), about a girl's first sexual experience, with Riley's moaning/whining "Oh, oh-oh-oh, oh, oh-oh-oh / Girl, Tonight" hook caused many an adolescent female to swoon and many outraged parents to complain. The follow-up single, "Deep Inside Your Love", just secured their spot in the hearts of those same adolescent girls. "Oh Sheila", also from the debut album, was the tune that put the group over the top and into platinum status. This was their first #1 single, and remains their most popular song to this day.

Their follow-up LP, 1986's Long Time Coming, contained the chart-topper "Love You Down" -- another ballad, this time about a May/December romance. The title track from this album and the uptempo "Mary Goes 'Round" single also appear on this collection. Ready for the World's last two albums, Ruff 'N Ready (1988) and Straight Down To Business (1991), are also represented here with singles from each. These albums didn't make as much of a splash as the first two, probably due to the fact that the band chose to try to sound like everyone else instead of sticking with what they started with (Ruff 'N Ready had a Teddy Riley-esque New Jack Swing vibe, and Straight Down to Business sounded eerily like a Bell Biv DeVoe record, especially the title cut). After the group disbanded, Melvin Riley attempted to re-capture the feel of the first RFTW record on his solo release, 1994's Ghetto Love. The single from that LP, "Whose Is It?" only reached #43 on the Billboard R&B chart, but is included in this collection nonetheless.

Ready for the World was a great band, and they made great music. Unfortunately, they fell victim to the fickle tastes of the public. So reminisce a little. Pick up 20th Century Masters � The Millennium Collection: The Best of Ready for the World and remember what a really good band sounds like.

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