by James Brown


Brown's early-'70s run of classic singles and good-to-great albums is still impressive. Hell was the double album released a year after the gold selling The Payback. To some, the title might put this effort in the realm of kitsch, but in many ways Hell was one of Brown's strongest albums. The album was the pinnacle of his work as the Minister of the Super New New Heavy Funk. From the tough and nimble Latin rhythms of "Coldblooded," and "Sayin' It and Doin' It" to the title track, all are prime pre-disco Brown. "My Thang" is probably as hard and unrelenting as he got without spontaneously combusting. The biggest surprise of Hell is that no matter how odd the song choices seemed, practically everything worked, excluding a few key songs of course. Both "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "Stormy Monday" don't belong in James Brown's catalogue, let alone the same album. Ballad-wise, Brown fares better. "These Foolish Things Remind Me of You" has him getting all warm and fuzzy as he inexplicably throws in an "I'm hurt, I'm hurt" for good measure. That song, as well as the weepers "A Man Has to Go to the Cross Road Before He Finds Himself" and "Sometime," were produced by David Matthews who could always get good ragged yet poised vocals from Brown. Although Brown did roll snake eyes on all of side three, he did leave Hell on a good note. "Papa Don't Take No Mess" is laid-back, funky jazz that's worth each of its 13-plus minutes. Despite a few detours, Hell is worth listening to.

Product Details

Release Date: 02/28/1995
Label: Polydor / Umgd
UPC: 0731452398321
catalogNumber: 523983

Album Credits

Performance Credits

James Brown   Primary Artist,Piano,Vocals
Joe Beck   Guitar
Jon Faddis   Trumpet
St. Clair Pinckney   Tenor Saxophone
David Sanborn   Alto Saxophone
Lew Soloff   Trumpet
Chuck Rainey   Bass
Pee Wee Ellis   Baritone Saxophone
Ralph MacDonald   Percussion
Maceo Parker   Alto Saxophone
Sue Evans   Percussion
Charlie Brown   Guitar
David Matthews   Piano,Electric Piano
Sam T. Brown   Guitar
James Buffington   French Horn
Lyn Collins   Background Vocals
Eddie Daniels   Reeds
Gordon Edwards   Bass
Joe Farrell   Tenor Saxophone
Johnny Griggs   Conga
Tom Harrell   Trombone
Hilda Harris   Background Vocals
James Madison   Drums
Harvey Mason   Drums
Deborah McDuffie   Background Vocals
John Morgan   Drums
Gene Orloff   Concert Master
John Starks   Drums
Maretha Stewart   Background Vocals
Fred Thomas   Bass
David Tofani   Reeds
Frank Vicari   Tenor Saxophone
Fred Wesley   Percussion,Trombone,Tambourine,Background Vocals
Jimmy Nolen   Guitar
Hearlon "Cheese" Martin   Guitar
Bob Both   Percussion
Michael Gipson   Trombone
Isiah "Ike" Oakley   Trumpet
Johnny Scotton   Background Vocals
Martha Harvin   Background Vocals
Jim Parker   Alto Saxophone

Technical Credits

James Brown   Arranger,Composer,Producer
Pee Wee Ellis   Composer
David Matthews   Arranger
Alan Leeds   Liner Notes
Bob Both   Engineer
Joe Belt   Artwork
Ted Pettus   Art Direction

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