*** 1/2JAMES BROWN. "I'm Real." Scotti Brothers. **OHIO PLAYERS. "Back." Track. If any one person can be said to have single-handedly dreamed up what is commonly known as soul music--as well as its linear descendant, funk--that person is James Brown. Within the last year alone there's been dozens of hip-hop records deconstructed from electronic samples of beats, breaks, hooks and asides lifted directly from 20-year-old JB classics.
Nevertheless, aside from his "Living in America" comeback hit a couple of years back, Mr. Brown's own recorded output has been rather uneventful of late. So the concept of pairing him with the Zoo York songwriting/production sextet known as Full Force, which has been burning up the charts with Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, U.T.F.O. and a bunch of lesser lights as well as having racked up a fistful of hits in its own right--is nobody's idea of genius.
The results, however, are mind-boggling beyond our reasonable expectations, as Full Force electronically re-creates, then sonically updates, the famous Brown style. Along with the MONSTER grooves, the Brooklyn beat-boys also brought all kinds of cleverness to the session. Witness the wandering, jazzy piano and the scratchy sound-FX on "Static," longtime Brown sax man Maceo Parker's turn-out-the-lights solo on "Keep Keepin'," the catalogue of hits 'n' bits lyrics on "I'm Real" (the current single), and much, much more.