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Nicki Richards is the real deal - a world class singer, songwriter, producer, arranger and performer who brings the sizzle and the thrill back to that rarified realm known as "music beyond category." Born into a household rich in jazz and the gospel of the Primitive Baptist Church, yet raised on the radio of the 70s and ..80s - when airwaves overflowed with amazing R&B, rock, pop and dance music diva Richards delivers a dizzyingly eclectic musical palette to your eardrums.

Every composition is hers and she arranged them all in her living room laboratory of beat banks, keyboards, computers and microphones. Nicki Richards' long-awaited new album is simply titled, "Nicki"…. 17 songs for the 17 years she's been away since her 1991 debut Naked (To the World). It's 76 mind-blowing minutes of the hippest trip in the galaxies aboard Starship Nicki, with guest stars bassists Marcus Miller, Will Lee and Victor Bailey, pianist Joe Sample, the legendary Tower of Power Horns, gargantuan drummer Dennis Chambers, harmonica maverick Gregoire Maret, guitarists Ciro, Sherrod Barnes and Monte Pittman, a sprawling A-list of singers that includes Lisa Fischer, Cindy Mizelle and Nicki's mom Donna Blackmon, and Nicki's rock steady co-producer, producer, mentor and drummer, Mr. Lenny White (of Return to Forever and Twennynine fame). "SHOCK-A-LOCK-A!". Her sophomore CD reflects not only the sounds of her most lasting influences, but how their timeless masterpieces assisted Nicki in sculpting signature statements all her own. To listen to "I Have Loved You Always" is to imagine Stevie Wonder reconstructing Joni Mitchell's "Two Grey Rooms" while ensconced somewhere deep in the Spanish countryside. Listening to "That Ain't Right" puts you in the mind of Prince teasing, "Dig if you will the picture of Sly Stone having his way with Percy Mayfield's 'Please Send Me Someone to Love.' "The ego strokin’ “Say What” finds Nicki recalling nightclub glory days over the beat of Taana Gardner’s bedrock “Heartbeat” groove with a mid song break straight out of Miles Davis’ “So What.” And if you fantasized about what Nicki's CD opener "Let's Dance" might taste like, it would be Tom Browne's "Funkin' for Jamaica" and George Duke's "Reach For It" blended over Krush Groove'd ice with an extract of the GAP Band's supremely chocolaty "Shake."

Highlights abound on the lady’s new Nicki collection - where thoughtful lyrics meet sophisticated musicality with visceral and engaging results. Take "Check Yourself,” a hunk of burnin’ “Knee Deep” funk on which Nicki forthrightly tells a man to change his evil ways. “I was making changes in my life, so I was calling people out on theirs as well,” Nicki laughs! This song showcases an electrifying turn by the Tower of Power Horns, arranged by Tom “Bones” Malone – a dream come true for the girl who grew up devouring the liner notes and credits of all the albums she bought, vowing to one day work with all of the greats herself. “We cut that at Clinton Studios and their sound just filled the place,” she says. “It was taking over the record in the best kind of way. Tom gave those guys some tricky parts to play and they straight handled it! It took me right back to being a kid with my vinyl. And they were so respectful of me and what I’d brought to the table. We had a blast, laughed the entire day – then we all went out to dinner at Serafina’s…the best!”

The latter half of Nicki Richards’ Nicki is a suite of songs expressing the loneliness and frustration of longing for a love you know is attainable yet just out of reach. On the spacey “Alpha Centauri,” Nicki taps into her fascinations with astronomy, science fiction and the dubiousness of on-line communication to get this message across (with Victor Bailey’s fretless bass masterfully telegraphing that unbearable lightness of forlornness). Ditto for “Say the Words,” the interlude “In Bed” and “Happening to Me Again” in which love is a heart-wrenching series of memories and fantasies recalled in lines of vividly aching poetry such as, "my body has betrayed me…your kisses fall, they’re pouring down like rain” The most mesmerizing of these pieces is the intergalactic sensuality of “Parallel Universe,” crafted by Ms. Richards with a soundtrack ladled right out of the Milky Way, featuring impassioned drumming by Lenny White and delicate piano strokes by Joe Sample - another personal coup. “One of the first records I bought with my own money at a shopping mall record store was Carmel by Joe Sample,” Nicki states, almost giddy with delight. “When Lenny asked me about a dream list of musicians for my album, Joe was at the top.

As fate would have it, at a hotel in L.A., Lenny ran smack into Joe who said it would be o.k. for me to call him. I sent him the music, he loved it and it was on!” The encounter had both poignant and hilarious results. “Joe made the time to go to his home and play the parts on his beautiful Steinway,” Nicki continues. “But he also cursed me out because the print on the original sheet music I sent was too small for him to read. He was like, ‘Don’t you know I’m an old man? I had to put my glasses on to see the blankity-blank thing!’ At that moment I thought, ‘I’m getting cursed out by Joe Sample right now about my music…COOL!’ What an honor it was for me to even be on his radar… I am so grateful to have the acceptance of these incredible musicians.”

Though Nicki’s new album reflects the point of view of an older and wiser woman with the depth of its themes and lyrics, the lady has always expressed concern for the ways of the world as far back as first-album songs like “New Days of Rage” and “What’s Going On.” However, she always has a few sexy, funky joints up her satin sleeves. In fact, she is the undisputed queen of songs about lustful obsession, proven by “I Won’t Let Go” from Naked (on which she also busted an unforgettable rap) and on Nicki with the brash and bold "I'm Gon' Be With You". “I just needed that song to be nasty `cuz that’s how I was feeling,” Nicki confesses, channeling her inner hussy.“I found an old piece of metal pipe and made that my snare sound because I needed it to be just raw, wrong and basic! Then I got Gregoire Maret (a Swiss harmonica player who’s worked with everyone from Cassandra Wilson and Marcus Miller to Pat Metheny and Herbie Hancock) to blow on it. His harmonica just made it black, country and wonderful!”

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