Marred by some blatant filler, but it's still James Brown, a
Dave | United States | 12/14/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Released in late 1980, "Soul Syndrome" is not generally considered a James Brown classic, and it's no mystery as to why. This is one of those albums that sounds like it was cranked out over the course of one long afternoon by a band that had barely any material on hand to record. This does become a big problem, particularly on the excessive, tediously repetitive, knuckleheaded swing number "Mashed Potatoes" which is a rehash of the 1960 Brown single "(Do The) Mashed Potatoes, Pt. 1", and a piece of blatant filler if there ever was one. The near-instrumental "Honky Tonk", which closes the main-album potion, is certainly less egregious, but it still reeks of filler.
Make no mistake about it though, James has a hell of a great band behind him on this album. Additionally, James took back the production reins; the two previous studio albums, "The Original Disco Man" and "People", had been produced by Brad Shapiro.
Discounting the two aforementioned pieces of filler, this album is loads of fun. The opening "Rapp Payback (Where Iz Moses?)" ingeniously reprises the Brown classic "The Payback", and despite all the derivativeness of his own work, it's a blast that never loses steam for the duration of its 14 uptempo minutes. "Funky Men" is an insanely fun uptempo groover with a big relentless bass line. "Smokin' & Drinkin'" is a great funk number with vintage James Brown-style horn charts. Even the surprisingly pop-rock styled "Stay With Me" proves a winner.
If your taste leans more towards the smooth disco end of things as opposed to hard funk, "Soul Syndrome" might be the ideal place to start a James Brown collection. That's not to say this album isn't funky, or that it lacks energy, but there is an undeniable late '70s/ early '80s smoothness to the sound. Either way, "Soul Syndrome" is about 75% great, and no James Brown fan should be without it."