Godfather Of Soul Takes His Funk On The Road

Living legend James Brown celebrates at House of Blues and boasts about new LP.

LOS ANGELES -- In his characteristically boastful manner, peppered

with inflections and a dab of the eccentric, "Godfather of Soul" James Brown is

showing no modesty over his forthcoming album.

"We're very proud of the new album. Soundwise, It's unbelievable. It's a

masterpiece," the legendary singer and performer said while sitting in his

dressing room backstage before a show at L.A.'s House of Blues to celebrate

the venue's anniversary and promote his new material. "We want people to be

going crazy. So what we're doing is pre-testing it, the old way. Go and test it,

see what gets people moving."

Dressed in solid black, Brown looked more serene than his highly stylized

onstage persona -- despite his processed hairdo and flashy, broad smirk --

as he discussed his forthcoming album, Funk on the Road, as well as his

impressions of the current pop landscape Monday night.

Brown, who is doing spot dates before the album's August release, spoke in a

deep, gruff tone as his eyes scanned the room, which was filled with his

entourage of business associates and friends. "You'll want to know where I get

all my energy," Brown said, then answered, "God," with the inflection of a

preacher on Sunday morning.

An initial challenge of making the album, according to Brown, was finding

collaborators and producers who understood his vision. "It's been hard for me to

do this record, because it's been hard to get people to understand what I'm

doing," he said. "I got people now who know what I'm doing. They really don't

care, they just say, 'What you're doing, we gonna make it big.' "

Funk on the Road will be released as a joint venture of Brown's label

Georgia-Luna and Private I, which is distributed by PolyGram. Joe Isgro,

president of Private I, said that the album has a modern edge, though it is

thoroughly James Brown. "He's got some material now that we feel is more

contemporary," he said later that night, adding that Brown is an "absolute

pleasure to work with -- a pro."

Brown -- who also holds such titles as "The Minister of the New

Super Heavy Funk," "Soul Brother Number One," "Mr. Dynamite" and "The

Hardest Working Man in Show Business" -- is widely recognized as one of the

premiere artists who helped define the R&B, soul and funk genres as well as

open the doors to hip-hop. "I'm real proud when I see 90 percent of the kids

playing things I put together," Brown said. "I hear them going in my bag, and I

think, 'All right now, I must have done the right thing.' "

But the Godfather of Soul also implied that a narrow-minded industry has led to

the inadequacy of popular music. "We need some music," Brown said firmly. "I

think the only thing that's wrong with the record business is people are afraid to

bring out good records; they're following the trend. They've got the young

people jumping up and down, but there's no substance there. You gotta have

substance."

Brown gave two consecutive performances at the House of Blues here on

Monday and Tuesday night as part of the venue's forth anniversary celebration.

The singer, who christened the House when it originally opened in 1994, was

there again this week to "bless" the Sunset Strip venue.

"James Brown is the epitome of soul and music -- truly an entertainer," Anjali

Raval, publicist for the venue, said of its decision to ask Brown back. "He is

a very avid supporter of the House of Blues, and it's pretty auspicious that

he is returning to celebrate our anniversary. We've had a great four years."

Initially expected to arrive for soundcheck just before 5 p.m. on Monday, Brown

didn't show up until about an hour before showtime. But, as one of his

publicity folks remarked, "Who says James Brown needs to do a soundcheck?"

Brown, who will celebrate his 65th birthday on Sunday, has been performing for

nearly half a century.

Born into poverty in the South, Brown rose to star status in the mid-'50s with

his now-classic debut album, Please, Please, Please. Revolutionizing

R&B into soul and, later, soul into funk, Brown scored hit after hit, including

"Try Me,"

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Brown,_James/Papa's_Got_A_Brand_Ne

w_Bag.ram">"Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" (RealAudio excerpt), "It's

a Man's Man's Man's World,"

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Brown,_James/I_Got_You,_I_Feel_Good.r

am">"I Got You (I Feel Good)" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Cold Sweat."

More recently, Brown has seen a series of legal and health troubles. In January,

he was charged with simple possession (less than one ounce) of marijuana and

was later hospitalized in his home state of South Carolina for an addiction to

painkillers, which the singer had began taking since injuring his back during

a performance.

Last month, Brown pleaded no contest to a charge of discharging a rifle under

the influence of drugs or alcohol. He was sentenced to complete a drug

treatment program within the next six months or face two years in jail.