James Brown – The Singles, Volume 1: The Federal Years 1956-1960

ARTIST: James Brown                         brown-federal

TITLE:  The Singles, Volume 1: The Federal Years 1956-60

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation


SINGLES: By definition, all were A’s or B’s of singles (or promo singles). Charting singles: Please, Please, Please (#6 R&B), Try Me (#48, #2 R&B), I Want You So Bad (#20 R&B), I’ll Go Crazy (#15 R&B), Think (#33, #7 R&B), You’ve Got the Power (#14 R&B), This Old Heart (#79, #20 R&B)


LINEUP: James Brown with the Fabulous Flames & sidemen

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First of a great compilation by Hip-O of ALL of James Brown’s singles up through 1981.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Looking at James Brown’s album discography, it’s clear that James treated albums as mere product. This was clearer from the mid-to-late 60’s onward, where he’d record some long jams, cut a couple of single sides from the parts, slapped the jam on the album with other jams and remakes of his old songs. As long as it was over 30-35 minutes long, he released it.

So, after a rethink, I decided to rate these single compilations. Here’s the first one, when he was on Federal Records (a subsidiary of King, where he soon moved to after gathering hits in 1960).

In these release, James was more of a leader of a vocal group than anything. However, a lot of the material is recognizable as James Brown – as in he’s the only one that could pull it off. From ballads, weepers, and storming soul, it’s all here. It’s not as consistently good as his later stuff would be, and many of these songs are similar in execution. (Well, that didn’t change much, really.)

I wouldn’t start here unless you’re really anal about chronology. But it’s worthwhile, and has some hot tracks you need in your collection.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: It was obvious that Brown was the reason people went to see the Fabulous Flames, so the manager changed the name to “James Brown & the Fabulous Flames”. The old Flames quit, but that didn’t stop Brown.


GRADE: A-: For historical purposes and the fact there’s some damn good old-old-school soul and R&B here.

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