Now That You're Fed
Independent Release, 2006
REVIEW BY: Paul Hanson
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/24/2006
Chris Brown performs music as if his sole purpose in life is to tap his soul for inspiration and record it.
Brown surpasses expectations for music fans on his debut Now That You're Fed. After repeated listenings, his introspective lyrics and musical tributes to his influences (the Beatles and Billy Joel) result in an amazingly listenable collection of 12 songs. Brown's forte is his lyrics, so richly dense and poetic that I, a former English major, get lost in the hidden meanings.
An award-winning filmmaker, Brown applies the same personal touch and care to his music. Violinist Heidi Jane helps him out, along with percussionist Ethan Turner and varying degrees of saxophone, bass and trumpet. Turner's approach to the material aises my interest level with each listen; the bossa nova groove of "In the Kitchen" is brilliant, while Brown sings about his relationship with the subject: "I listen for irregular breathing / trying to forget the sound / your heart makes when it's slowing down," set to some Beatles-type orchestration before jumping back into the bossa nova groove.
The stellar title track features some rather cryptic lyrics -- I think they're about a cat -- to further prove that Brown puts a lot of though into what he writes. He sings "Now that you're fed / please get off my porch / your mother's getting fat / in the back of a restaurant / at someone else's table." Sounds like a cat, right? Then he sings "Now that you're old enough to tie your shoes / you wake up in the back of the courthouse and your hand's tied / with the judge's purple necktie." Huh? I thought this was about a cat.
This verbal circus is just as compelling in "Waiting for Caroline" where Brown sings "And I know she's insincere / but she's here and she's mine / and I'm waiting for Caroline." The music is arranged in a poetic Billy Joel style with a piano playing the melody and vocal harmonies making this track a haunting tribute to a relationship. Brown demonstrates his ability to master his material here when he veers into the much happier "Things She Laughed About," an upbeat tempo and staccato guitar complementing the dense lyrics.
"Not Gonna Make it Easy" is my favorite track, discussing a strained relationship via lyrics like "You're only human / why can't you fly / you're nearly 99 / why don't you die?" Later, he sings, "You're a paralegal down in paradise / playing craps with Saint Peter and his velvet dice / if you ask me once, I'm gonna tell you thrice." The organ lead towards the end of the song adds a unique element to the song, which is a symphonic pop piece dense with harmonies.
Chris Brown serves his soul for the listener to feast upon repeatedly. Given the chance, you will return to this release whenever you are in need of a journey through a thoughtful and talented modern pop masterpiece. In the running for one of the year's Top Ten albums.