Eighties R&B band Ready for the World take a dive into 21st-century jams | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Eighties R&B band Ready for the World take a dive into 21st-century jams 

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click to enlarge Ready for the World

Ready for the World

Courtesy the Artist

UPDATE Monday, July 8, 12:45 PM: Both concerts by Ready for the World have been canceled. Refunds available at point of purchase.

Ready for the World’s single “Tonight” was all over the radio in 1984, but due to its lyrical content it unfortunately was not allowed at my summer camp: “Did he say ‘wet’?” a counselor shouted as she confiscated the taped-from-WBMX mixes I was blasting on my boom box in the cabin. If you’re of a certain age, there’s a chance that you also got into trouble because of the rhythmic pulsations of this 80s R&B band. The six original members of Ready for the World grew up in Flint, Michigan, where they all started playing music as kids and eventually competed against one another at open mikes and local music contests, where they honed their skills as funk and pop musicians. They joined forces in the early 80s, when they were all about 18 or 19, and debuted with “Tonight,” which became a constant radio jam—in part because lead singer Melvin Riley pleaded and moaned like Prince in his most risque moments. Their next hit, the bouncy, radio-friendly “Oh Sheila” (from their self-titled 1985 debut album), attained crossover success and eventually reached number one on the Billboard pop charts. Until the early 90s, Ready for the World continued to tour with some success, and they released three more albums of funky R&B. Riley left to pursue a solo career in 1994, came back for a few reunion dates in 2016, and quit again to focus on his own music in 2018, at which point the rest of Ready for the World gave up on him and recruited singer Ray Lavender. They released a new single, “So Much Life,” whose solid songwriting is eclipsed by its overwrought production—an overlay of synth trills and samples makes it a frustrating listen for anyone who appreciates what skilled musicians these guys are. In a 2018 interview on Sirius Radio’s Sway in the Morning show, keyboardist Willie Triplett said the group was working on a new album, and I for one would love to see them collaborate with Twista (who heavily sampled them on his 2005 song “Girl Tonite”) and a whole slew of guest vocalists. That said, Lavender has been touring with the group for the past year and fits in really well with the OGs—he infuses their concerts with the type of sex-symbol energy they leaned on in their early days. Ready for the World still kick it live too—with their matching stage outfits and choreographed line-dance moves, they always get the crowd moving.   v

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