*** CAMEO "Real Men Wear Black" Atlanta Artists : Albums rated on a scale of one star (poor) to five (a classic).

After 13 years, as many albums and somewhere in the 'hood of 9 million sold, Cameo has earned its status as the true keeper of the funk flame the old-fashioned way--they burned it down, clown, on 1982's "Alligator Woman," 1984's "Talkin' Out the Side of Your Neck" and, especially, 1986's "Word Up!," which brought the group its first real taste of cross-the-tracks $ucce$$.

Seeing as how their last album was a pale imitation of its predecessor, this time out Larry Blackmon and company are back in black, Jack, rappin' 'n' raffishly riffin' in full-effect mode. Which--for those readers who do not speak jive--translates as techno-funk a la Thumparumpasaurus wrecks.

Using a krazee-quilt combination of synthetic/organic keyboards 'n' hipshot! percussion, greazy basslines and goofbawl vocals, (heavy on the minor sevenths), Cameo rolls back the rug for a wall-to-off-the-wall dance party, with the house-of-whacks "I Want It Now" and the over-the-counter Afro-desiac "Nan-Yea" providing the most innovative moments. The two ballads, delivered in a strained Delfonics style, tie for least-interesting honors.

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