VOCALIST/PRODUCER Larry Blackmon has once again revamped the Cameo sound for the funk band's latest outing, "Real Men . . . Wear Black." Blackmon has finessed the group's lack of a real lead singer by relying on group vocals this time; he has dropped the singsong chants and rapping (except for one number) to go with real melodies; he has deemphasized the vocal filters and other hi-tech gimmicks in favor of a more straightforward approach and he has dressed up the band's dance groove with secondary rhythms that keep things interesting.
The result is the best Cameo album by far. Cameo has always imitated George Clinton's P-Funk sound, but this is the first time Blackmon has got it right. He creates a dizzying montage of bleating synths, rock guitar fills, hip-hop scratching, percussion jams, leering asides and vocal harmonies -- and he ties it all together with a rock-steady dance beat. The first side offers flirty, funny, harmless sex songs like "Close Quarters" and "I Want It Now." The second side stumbles over a simple-minded political rap number and a pair of mediocre ballads, but the hard-core funk tunes are some of the year's best.