Beautiful Life

Chuck Brown / Chuck Brown Band

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Beautiful Life Review

by Thom Jurek

Beautiful Life was an album very much in progress when Chuck Brown, the "Godfather of Go Go," passed away in May of 2012. It doesn't fall into the trap that many posthumously released offerings do, however. As a selection of Chuck Brown/Chuck Brown Band tunes, it is an exercise in continuity rather than a cynical attempt at making a trip to the bank. Brown appears on only five of the set's nine tracks, but his band and guests are up to the task he left. The title track features Brown in fine vocal form, rapping and singing about love and family in this rugged life. Guest Wale brings a short tribute to the bridge. Brown's signature music meets a modern soul groove on "Best in Me," which is just monstrous. He holds his own in a duet with Faith Evans as Raheem DeVaughn helps out on the chorus. The tune features a nasty, trademark keyboard bass winding out the groove with layer upon layer of percussion. The middle of the set features three tracks by the band. All are serviceable, but "Pop That Trunk," with Sugar Bear and KK going at one another vocally, is a go-go killer. Brown's love for blues, jazz, and gospel is well-known. It's displayed here on a stirring and utterly contemporary arrangement of Edwin Hawkins' "O Happy Day," with Brown getting deep into the grain of the lyric in duet with Y’Anna Crawley, and backed by the Howard University Gospel Choir and the CBB. Another nod to his lifelong appreciation of great Black music lies in the closer, a deeply soulful vocal read of Kenny Gamble's and Leon Huff's "You'll Never Find a Love Like Mine," filtered through the eternal groove of go-go and a canny horn chart. A Beautiful Life is a fitting sendoff for the big man.

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