Picks and Pans Review: I'm Real

updated 07/11/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/11/1988 01:00AM

James Brown

Because snippets of her ethereal voice keep turning up as background vocals on songs by other artists, such as M/A/R/R/S's Pump Up the Volume, the obscure Yemenite singer Ofra Haza has been labeled "the most sampled singer in the world" by the British rock press. Rubbish, you besotted Nigels. The most sampled singer in the world is unquestionably James Brown. The man is to modern funk and rap music what Shakespeare is to literature: One of every three hip-hop records is blatantly and unashamedly founded on one of his classic riffs, beats or shouted phrases. Everybody quotes the guy. That's why the prospect of Brown collaborating on I'm Real with Full Force, one of the brightest young writing-producing teams, seemed so promising. It doesn't quite pan out. Actually, producer Dan Hartman did a better job of rejuvenating Brown's spirit and output on 1986's Living in America. Instead of contemporizing the Godfather of Soul, the six men who make up Full Force too often merely get Brown to sound like his legions of young copycats. On Can't Get Enuf, Full Force even resorts to borrowing an old Brown riff, just the way everyone else does. Mostly in uninspired form, Brown himself comes across as if he showed up at the sessions just to pick up a check. Either that, or for the first time he's beginning to sound half his age (which is anywhere from 55 to 60, depending on who is divulging it). Before you write off this album, be advised there are a couple of songs that make this shebang not a total waste. She Looks All Types a' Good, with longtime Brown cohort Maceo Parker on sax, and Static (Part 1 & 2) are definitely inflammatory material. Good enough that by next year they'll have launched maybe a thousand other songs. Sample this, Jack. (Scotti Bros.)

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