Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Stro Elliot & James Brown

  • Black & Loud: James Brown as Reimagined by Stro Elliot [Polydor, 2022] A

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Black & Loud: James Brown as Reimagined by Stro Elliot [Polydor, 2022]
This audacious object lesson in what Dan Charnas has dubbed "the sound of error" is body music with a spasmodic jerk or twist to it. Maybe you have to love James Brown to love the simultaneously awed, woke, and dismembered way 44-year-old Roots instrumentalist/beatmaker Elliot adores and messes with hybrid JB grooves on which he confers titles like "Machine No Make Sex," "Coal Sweat," and "Turn It Up Give It Shrooms." But I hope not. Because even if you've never been fooled into thinking that "Sex Machine" might just go on forever this time, you'll be electrified by every one of these 10 sub-five-minute instrumentals-with-vocals yet at the same time be glad when each workout ends, kind of like at the gym. Foreshortening a syllable here, unbalancing a mix there, squeezing sounds out of shape, fucking with perfection Dilla-style, Elliot reminds us that nothing lasts forever. But he also makes us glad we're capable of thinking it can. A