Legal battle keeps album under wraps

The infighting over James Brown's estate is not only stalling the creation of "Soul-land" at his home and jeopardizing his charitable trust for poor children, it's also keeping the world from hearing the funk pioneer's final recordings.

His longtime adviser, attorney Buddy Dallas, said Mr. Brown cut a studio album the summer before he died, and it's now among the projects stymied by courtroom battles over who should profit from his likeness and music royalties.

"Everything's tied up," said Mr. Dallas, who quit as an estate trustee in November but has since sought to retract his resignation, saying he was improperly pressured by Aiken County Judge Jack Early.

The album was recorded in Los Angeles in 2006, but Mr. Brown never gave the go-ahead to release it, Mr. Dallas said. Between 50 and 70 other tracks remain in vaults, he said.

Daryl Brown, the singer's fourth son and lead guitarist for his backing band, the Soul Generals, said he's not aware of anything his father recorded in California that year.

Mr. Brown and the Soul Generals were working on an album at Studio South Productions in Martinez, but they finished only two songs, Daryl Brown said.

One of them, Gut Bucket Funk, can be heard on the Soul Generals' MySpace page.

But there are scores of unreleased tracks, Daryl Brown confirmed. Some are in vaults; others are likely on master tapes in the pool house of the Beech Island estate, dating back to around 1996, he said.

"Those will be revealed after all the legalities get over with," said the guitarist, who is among five heirs seeking to void their father's will.

In the meantime, the renamed J.B. Soul Generals are recording an album to be produced by funk bassist and former J.B.'s member Bootsy Collins, Daryl Brown said, and they're planning a James Brown tribute album along with Mr. Collins, Herbie Hancock, Chuck D, Kurtis Blow, Afrika Bambaataa and Kool Herc.

Mr. Brown, the "Godfather of Soul" whose revolutionary riffs and beats paved the way for modern hip hop music, died in Atlanta on Christmas Day 2006, at 73.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

A GOOD FOOT BACK ON THE CHARTS?

James Brown had not released any commercially significant new works since the late 1980s: Gravity and I'm Real. The single I'm Real reached No. 2 on the U.S. R&B chart in 1988.

His last single to reach No. 1 was Papa Don't Take No Mess in 1974. Living in America went to No. 4 on the U.S. chart and No. 10 on the R&B chart in 1984.

His last studio release, not counting compilations, was The Next Step in 2002.

Demand can be high, though, for posthumously released recordings:

- Nirvana's MTV Unplugged in New York went to No. 1 after Kurt Cobain's suicide in 1994.

- George Harrison's Brainwashed - completed after his 2001 death - reached No. 18 on the Billboard charts.

- Aaliyah's single More than a Woman topped the charts after her 2001 death in a plane crash.