The last disc from the box set gets a spin.
I travelled north a few years (2004) back to see James Brown live at Byron Bay’s Bluesfest (As an aside, my missus was very surprised to see him on the bill. She thought he was dead!). We endured some seriously rib-impinging crowd crush up close to the stage in anticipation (as well as a pretty lame Max Merritt set).
It was well worth the wait. At 70 years plus, he was still able to belt out some grunts and wiggle his hips. In the end, of course, much of his appeal lies in the groove laid down by his ever-growing band and choristers. I suspect he could have phoned in the vocals with out much complaint from the crowd.
To some extent that is what is going on with this final disc in the box set. JB is going through the motions on the majority of tracks. He also seems less confident in the material on occassions and more prone to imitation of new contenders.
This is most noticeable on Public Enemy #1, which sounds like an attempt to match Wonder, Hayes and Gaye. There is still some killer (e.g. the two versions of The Payback – the latter with Afrika Bambaataa), but it is clear the best was behind him.
I hate to end on a negative, so instead will leave you with a great dance lesson from Soul Brother Number One:
File under: I don’t know karate, but I do know ka-razy
Sorry for silence – I was interstate for work (and with James Brown for company).
By CD number three, JB has got almost too funky for his own good.
This album is a fiesta of multi-movement pieces. Five out of the 14 tracks clock in at over 5 mins, 4 at over 7 mins. The man has moved beyond normal pop song constraints into a world of musical mastery. This is the foundations on which the lunacy and other worldness of Parliament and Funkadelic (I guess that’s the Bootsy Collins connection).
His band is just outstanding, responding to his commands, understanding his various grunts and signals, and laying down grooves that rise and full and bubble along in such a timeless fashion. The horns are sharp, fast and sexy. Again, this is rich pickings for samplers wanting an infectious hook.
Sorry Andy, I do think Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine is Brown’s true masterpiece, and it sits perfectly here between Funky Drummer and Super Bad (Parts 1 & 2). But let’s have some dialogue here. Which do you all prefer?
Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine
In a race I would back Disc 2 as slightly more diverse than this volume, but you won’t find too much to complain about here.
File under: Jump back and kiss yourself
Our journey through the Brown box set continues…
When we left James he was busy editing down Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag. This album kicks off with the 2.08 min single version, which is hard to fault. Then into I Got You (I Feel Good). Can it get any better?
Not for a little while… but it doesn’t drop off too much. Money Wont Change You shows how much the underlying music is now dominating relative to (ad-libbed) vocals. The “huh!!” is becoming more and more prevalent and the band is getting funkier every song…
As the vocals become less important, it can become harder to remember which tune is which. But each of these tracks is a dancefloor winner. The back-t0-back pairing of Cold Sweat and Get It Together is about the best 16 minutes of jamming you are likely to ever hear.
The pace and fun is relentless. This is even better than Disk 1 and James seems unstoppable. Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud stands as a testament to read the market and mood perfectly too. Give It Up or Turn It a Loose demonstrates that lyrics have almost passed their use-by date.
Just keep playing this CD til you can dance no more…
File under: Get down with your bad self
Oh, another reviewing protocol dilemma. This box set showcasing James Brown’s career could be reviewed as a single item, but it is effectively 4 distinct CDs, so I’m treating them as such…
I chased up this collection after reading about in a fantastic history of Funk book. It was heralded as the definitive collection from the Godfather of Soul.And it is pure gold.
The box set is pretty much in chronological order, so you can see the evolution of Brown’s sound. Disk 1 encompasses the most substantial transformation. On the early tracks he is very much in the soul world, with sweet singing, do-wops and the like. The tunes could just as easily come from anyone across the Motown, Chess etc world.
It’s all cute and catchy, but it only gives a hint of the huge leap Brown was about to make. By I’ll Go Crazy, the beats and bass are starting to take over, and Brown’s vocals are taking on a more rhythmic role. Think sees us well and truly in the new world of funk. We start to hear basslines, horn riffs and the like that sound very, very familar. That’s because they would later become the most sampled sounds in hip-hop.
This is wonderful and captivating stuff. The CD closes out with a great 6:56 minute long 3-part version of Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag which was edited down to make his classic single. This version is better and even groovier.
Brown was a true icon and this CD starts to show us why.
File under: Get some funk in your trunk