Tag Archives: James Brown

[135] James Brown and the JB’s – “Sex Machine”

6 Nov

Don’t worry.  Of course I am going to recommend this remarkable single.

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That said, I am left with a bizarre sensation, coming to the end of three James Brown recordings – all excellent – without any mention of his signature tune, “I Feel Good”.  It’s as if Tom Moon had included Chuck Berry but left out “Johnny B Goode” . . .

But back to sex – sometimes cumbersomely titled “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine”.

The two note guitar stab, the bouncing piano fills, the seemingly improvised lyrics, the all day long call and response – “Sex Machine” is spontaneous perfection.  The fruits of the first recording session with his new band in 1970, here was the start of Brown’s second act, exploding once more into mainstream consciousness with a monster hit and a see-what-I-can-still-do gauntlet.

I listened to a handful of different live versions of this infectious groove and no two are quite the same, lyrically or even in tone.

The studio version is still the definitive, managing to feel at once laid back and urgent, while 1980s Live at Studio 54 version is all hectic energy and messy skatting.  The 1971 return to the Apollo provides a teasing groove of husky masculinity, in stark contrast to the full on, straight ahead, no nonsense pounding of the recording captured at the Olympia (Paris, France) the same year.

All the various settings of the Machine are satisfying – variety being the slice of life – but it’s still weird to know that Tom Moon has something against “I Feel Good” . . .

Next Week: Oscar Brown, Jr. – Sin & Soul

Owned before blogging? Yes. (12 of 135 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? Yes. (20 of 135 = 15%)
Recommend? Yes. (111 of 135 = 82%)

[134] James Brown – Soul Pride: The Instrumentals, 1960-1969

30 Oct

I think I enjoy these mostly instrumental and wholly impressive session jams even more than the familiar tunes that made Brown a household name.

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The whole thing, almost two and a half hours of freewheeling music, sounds like the soundtrack to an exceptional action movies with adrenaline and passion informing every note.  I can almost see the movement and color on the screen as Brown drives his buddies on in these late night recording binges, wailing occasionally or leading from the keyboard as every instrument imaginable takes its turn in the spotlight, adding its piece to the story.

This is the good stuff – artists performing for other artists, having fun, showing off.  The result could have been masturbatory but instead manages a wide-eyed “look what I can do” vibe as everyone shines, everyone soars.

There is so much joy in Brown’s music, and this is never more evident than in these 36 tracks spanning a decade.  You could throw this album on at almost any party, with almost any crowd and make your guests happy.

Whether it is hot horns, raging guitars or wandering electric piano riffs there is always something cool happening, technically excellent, subjectively pleasing regardless of the time or place or players.

The one constant is Brown, his recognizable aesthetic and legendary work ethic.

Next Week:  James Brown and the JB’s – “Sex Machine”

Owned before blogging? No. (11 of 134 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No. (19 of 134 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (110 of 134 = 82%)

[133] James Brown and the Famous Flames – Live At The Apollo (1962)

23 Oct

Short and oh so sweet, this tight and tiny live set is an amazing primer for anyone wanting to hear for themselves why James Brown was known as the hardest working man in show business.

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Barely half an hour long (even after including the spoken word introduction and instrumental opening track) it is not clear that the audience could have taken much more of this high octane, passion filled performance. From the very first lines sung by that instantly recognizable voice nothing is left to chance and nothing is left in reserve.

The notoriously demanding Apollo crowd laps up every note and it is easy to understand why.

The band is admirably sharp, keeping up with Brown’s energy and providing the canvas on which his whooping and wailing can appear as an artist painting with vocal color rather than just a crazy man screaming at a wall.

Assigned by Moon to his R&B category, this could as easily be seen as prototypical Rock n Roll, with the Blues (of the Rhythm and Blues) buried pretty far in the mix, and the guitar placed well forward in the mix, often dueling mightily with the powerful horn section.

But whatever you call it, this opportunity to experience “Mr Dynamite” (to use one of the titles bestowed on Brown during the introductions) in the early blush of his full powers and success is well worth listening to.

Next Week: James Brown – Soul Pride: The Instrumentals, 1960-1969

Owned before blogging? No. (11 of 133 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? No. (19 of 133 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (109 of 133 = 82%)

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