THE ALBUMS -- Original soundtrack, "The Blues-Brothers," ATLANTIC (SD 16017). James Brown, "James Brown Live/Hot on the One," Polydor (1196).; THE SHOW -- James Brown, Jean Carn and Al Johnson at the Warner Theater, This Friday and Saturday at 8 and midnight.
The best scene in the Blues Brothers movie takes place in the Triple Rock Baptist Church where James Brown, as the Rev. Cleophus James, is preaching funk and brimstone.
Brown shouts "Wake up!" and his black congregation shouts back, "Amen!"
He lifts up his purple vestments and does a stutter dance step.
His overcome parishioners rise out of the pews to grind and twist in the aisles.
Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi stand stonefaced in the back of the church until the musical miracle converts them, too. A ray of light grabs Belushi as if he were St. Paul and he goes somersaulting up the aisle.
The scene sums up the mesmerizing effect of black rhythm & blues, and the message is not exaggerated.
At the Warner Theater last January, James Brown had the same impact on a crowd of paying customers that he had on the churchgoers in the film.
A James Brown stage show has to be experienced to be believed.
Brown may be on the far side of 40 and past his hit record days, but he still performs with sweat-soaked abandon. It hardly matters what songs he does -- the whole show pulsates to one steady backbeat. Brown's voice is a rhythm instrument pushing the dance groove with crackling excitement. Once he gets worked up, his rubber legs start to shake and stutter.
The "Blues Brothers" soundtrack album contains an abbreviated version of Brown singing the traditional hymn, "The Old Landmark," but the record doesn't capture the excitement of the film or Brown's secular stage shows. Nor have Brown's recent studio records.
Brown's latest release, though, is a double live album, "James Brown Live/Hot on the One," recorded on a very good night in Tokyo last year. The record is a mixture of old classics like "Sex Machine" and "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and new variations on the familiar theme.
What's important is not the songs but the performance. Five of the numbers are extended to seven minutes and longer. Brown's voice pumps itself up on each line and bursts on each accent beat. By the end of each song he's shouting uncontrollably in exchanges with the crowd and his band.
The band is as sharp as any Brown's ever assembled. The saxophonists go careening off into wild solos; the bases jam each line full of extra beats.
"James Brown Live/Hot on the One" is the next best thing to being there.
This Friday and Saturday, though, Brown brings his evangelical R&B to the Warner again. He will be doing the same funk revival show that has been converting soulless unbelievers for decades.