Love Over-Due

James Brown’s new album is a comeback that’s also a return to form. Brown has regained control of his production, and instead of the tired imitations of his landmark music that burdened his last few albums, what we get are up-to-date extensions of his fundamental funk. Even in his heyday, Brown’s albums were uneven and too brief. Love Over-Due is too, but it’s bursting with bluesy rhythmic interplay. James gets to replay his role as a great bandleader, fronting an outfit that features the stalwart tenor saxophonist St. Clair Pinckney and such adept newcomers as lead guitarist Ronald Laster. The drumming by Arthur Dixon and Tony Cook is solidly in the pocket, and those aren’t machines they’re playing. They’re actual drum kits. (In the interest of justice, on his next album Brown should do a track that’s nothing but samples of hits made from his samples.) Love Over-Due‘s three or four up-tempo dance efforts are weak, possibly because Brown is no longer interested in being trendy. What makes the album work is the material steeped in raw blues, where Laster’s Memphis-style guitar licks or Pinckney’s crooning sax take the instrumental lead. But Brown himself is the inevitable center of attention. Slower grooves like the updated version of Hank Ballard’s 1959 ”Teardrops on Your Letter,” ”Show Me,” and ”You Are My Everything” show off his preaching, shouting, wit, and rhythmic sensuality. If the King of Soul and Emperor of Funk can sustain this level of the good tracks on this record, he’ll regain his throne in the ’90s. B

Love Over-Due
  • Music