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Norman Brown

Celebration

(Warner Bros.)

Celebration is Norman Brown’s fourth album, a cool ride through smooth town on a soul train, and so forth and so on. To me, it sounds like the music that’s always playing in a lovely buffet style dining room or the rest room of any store owned by Sam Walton. But, then again, someone has to make that kind of music. I think Norman Brown does a decent job of it, but his sound definitely won’t blow anyone away.


Throughout the album, Brown’s guitar work is great. He doesn’t cross the line of reasonable repetition more than a couple of timesand the melodies are all very sleek, never sounding busy or forced. Unfortunately, a few tracks feature vocal melodies, and these seem terribly contrived.


On “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” Brown does his best R. Kelly impression, and fails miserably. His performing strength lies in his confident guitar, not his slightly wavering voice. His scatting on Celebration is sometimes moderately entertaining, but never stands out as something to tell your friends about.


On to Brown’s backup band. The majority of the drumming is done by Li’l John, whose drumming shows signs of brilliance, but only in very quick flashes. The rest of his playing seems uninspired and at times, even unmotivated. The various bass players prove that they can play, but that’s about all. To top it off, a lot of the bass playing is programmed, which left me with a bad taste in my mouth. The keyboards and drum programming consistently reserve their space in the annals of modern music as dull, trite-sounding wonders of modern electronics with very little human feeling.


Celebration provokes the dislike of elevator style music that tries to call itself jazz. Despite the plentitude of interesting guitar work, the jazz elements do not make up for the cheese that is its general sound. If you like smooth jazz, you’ll probably not hate this. You may even be so overwhelmed by the guitar work to say you like it. I, on the other hand, must say that Celebration isn’t a necessity for my collection, nor should it be for anyone else’s.

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