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
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
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Brown,_James/Papa's_Got_A_Brand_Ne w_Bag.ram">"Papa's Got A Brand New Bag"
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)"
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
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.