James Brown

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Reality Review

by Jason Elias

By this point Brown's insane schedule was catching up to him. He seemingly had singles or albums coming out on a weekly basis, and Reality finds him at an artistic impasse. Released in late 1974, Reality was one of the few of his '70s albums recorded entirely in N.Y., with and without the J.B.'s. The title track has him complaining about something or another with the background singers goading him on with, "The Godfather, sing it James Brown." The best thing about the song is David Sanborn's sax solo near the fade. "Funky President is one of Brown's most underrated songs and manages to hit the lyrical messages. "All for One" misses by a mile. In retrospect it was foolish to except a "fun" album from Brown during this time. He seemed to view America as a doomed nation, and considered the gas shortage, Watergate, and unemployment lines as signs of the coming apocalypse. A hint of sadness and ennui cloaks over the album. "The Twist" (his own song, not Chubby Checker's), is a lightweight funk offering and a red flag that he was hitting a serious writer's block. Other signs of desperation were apparent as well, like his cutesy cover of the always hideous "Don't Fence Me In" or "Who Can I Turn To," with Brown's final whines on the song akin to fingernails screeching a chalkboard. Including some sped-up dance tracks and his worst ballads on record, Reality was proof that Brown could indeed turn in an album that was a real downer.

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