Brown, James – “Next Step, The” – [FOME Records]
There is a scene in Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s notorious film “Salo” where the fascist guards force the naked teen innocents to eat from a boiling pot of human feces. Listening to “The Next Step” is the auditory equivalent of watching that scene. And like trying to watch the movie, I had the experience, when listening to this, of cringing in shock but still wanting to hear it all the way through to it’s phenomenally excessive conclusion. Could it really get more superbly excruciating? Yes and I love it for that. I like James Brown, or maybe I like the idea of James Brown 40 or more years ago. The problem with “The Next Step” is that he is still trying to use the old signature style and mix it with contemporary 2002 sounds. Even though the album sounds more like 1985.
For ten songs, Brown is up to his old tricks, groaning and hollering and screaming his way through. But like the reminiscing uncle who everyone stays away from at the family party, Brown just can’t stop going back…. and forcing us to listen.
But hold on….don’t think I can’t stand this album. No way. On the contrary, I LOVE IT!! Sincerely! And I will be playing the hell out of it. From the Bell Biv DeVoe sounding opening track of “Automatic” to the testimony to youth of “Killing is Out, School is In” (pull that gun out of your pants), Brown goes whole hog. And if things ever get a little slow throughout he’ll be sure to throw in a “Get Funky”. There are so many stand out moments. Every track has something to offer. On “Why Did This Happen To Me” he laments as to why his woman left him, because well, he’s the best thing she is every going to have and go ahead and leave because he doesn’t need her anyway and she is going to be sorry but why couldn’t she see this. On “Good and Natural” he talks about many different kinds of food, possibly with innuendo, but also because he really likes the food. Listening to “Baby, You’ve Got What It Takes”, I seriously did a double take when the uncredited female vocalist says out loud and clear “Don’t hit me.” What? No, you didn’t. He’d already been arrested several times for abuse and battery and a few more would follow, but really? That is bold.
The uncredited “musicians” and drum machine programmer go uncredited as does the female vocalist who sings on several tracks and solo on track 7. No Jimmy. This was supposedly his last album. What a way to go.