Entertainment Weekly - 4/30/93, p.55
"...A fascinating, complex record--just don't expect to dance..." - Rating: B
Personnel: James Brown (vocals, electric piano); Jimmy Nolen, Hearlon Martin (guitar); Maceo Parker (flute, alto saxophone); St. Clair Pinckney (tenor saxophone); Darryl "Hasaan" Jamison, Isiah "Ike" Oakley, Jerone "Jasaan" Sanford (trumpet); Fred Wesley (trombone); Fred Thomas, Charles Sherrell (bass); John "Jabo" Starks (drums); Johnny Griggs, John Morgan (percussion).
Recorded at International Recording, Augusta, Georgia. Includes recent and original release liner notes by Alan Leeds.
All tracks have been digitally remastered.
THE PAYBACK was originally released in 1974 as a 2-LP set. For this reissue, the album was digitally remastered from the original master tapes, including a recently discovered longer version of "Mind Power", which is included here for the first time.
Personnel: James Brown (vocals, electric piano); Hearlon "Cheese" Martin, Jimmy Nolen (guitar); Maceo Parker, St. Clair Pinckney (flute); Isiah "Ike" Oakley, Jerone "Jasaan Sanford" Melson, Darryl "Hasaan" Jamison (trumpet); Fred Wesley (trombone); John Starks (drums); John Morgan (percussion).
Liner Note Author: Alan Leeds.
Recording information: Advantage Sound, New York, NY; International Studios, Augusta, GA.
In 1973, Brown was hospitalized for exhaustion. Mere days after his release from the hospital, his oldest son was killed in a car accident. A few months later, he'd completed the sessions for THE PAYBACK. There are echoes of Brown's anger and suffering throughout the album. The title song, with its drop-dead funky bassline, is full of vitriol, as Brown cries out for revenge and compensation. "Doing the Best I Can" is an attractive soul ballad in which Brown sings of maintaining one's balance against adverse circumstances, despite "wondering which way to turn."
Though the grooves are propulsive, this is a relatively low-key effort for Brown, filled with a subtly masked darkness. On the harrowing, bluesy "Forever Suffering," Brown sings of separation and loneliness, asking how long the suffering will continue. As the tune progresses, he sings with unsettling detail of the lengths to which his pain drives him. After repeated vows to beat his head against the wall, it becomes clear that the emotions being expressed here, and on the rest of THE PAYBACK, are very real. Fortunately, an artist of Brown's caliber is capable of channeling these feelings into great art.