Category: James Brown

James Brown – The Singles Vol. 4: 1966-1967

ARTIST: James Brown                                 brown vol 4

TITLE: James Brown: The Singles Vol. 4: 1966-1967

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #None

SINGLES: Charting: Ain’t That a Groove (#42, #6 R&B), It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World (#8, #1 R&B), Money Won’t Change You (#53, #16 R&B), Don’t Be a Dropout (#50, #4 R&B), Bring It Up (#29, #7 R&B), Kansas City (#55, #21 R&B), Think (#100 ), Let Yourself Go (#46, #5 R&B), Cold Sweat (#7, #1 R&B), Get It Together (#40, #11 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: He covers The Christmas Song, I Loves You Porgy, and Mona Lisa

LINEUP: James Brown, the Fabulous Flames, and his band.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A productive period for Brown, though there’s still a lot of fluff with some instrumental singles released from his ill-fated dalliance with Smash Records.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: James Brown, ahead of his time. “Bring It Up” has a parenthesis “Hipster’s Avenue” on occasion. (Hipster). He encouraged kids to stay in school. “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” is actually a song praising women. There’s proto-funk workouts in “Money Won’t Change You” and “Get It Together”, all culminating in “Cold Sweat”, which is a signature song, and kicked Brown off into the stratosphere in pop culture.

You can hear the evolution of tracks here. “Let Yourself Go” is a bridge leading toward “Cold Sweat”. His band callouts on several long tracks lead to later tracks where he just vamps and calls out for solos. A cut like “Stone Fox” is a guitar workout that was rare in soul circles.

The flaws here are some of the organ-based instrumentals left over from Smash Records, and his attempts (well meaning but flawed) at singing standards. The instrumentals don’t add much to his legacy, and he’s not a traditional singer. Still, even with those, this is primo stuff.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: A couple of cuts are credited to the James Brown Dancers. OK, then.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: A-: Sprawling, but exciting and the high points are definite touchstones in music history.

James Brown – The Singles Vol. 3: 1964-1965

ARTIST: James Brown                                                       jb singles 3

TITLE:  The Singles Vol. 3: 1964-1965

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Charting: Please Please Please (“live”) (#95 US), Caldonia (#95 US), The Things That I Used to Do (#99 US), Have Mercy Baby (#93 US), Out of Sight (#24 US), Try Me (instrumental) (#63 US, #34 R&B), Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag (#8 US, #1 R&B, #25 UK), I Got You (I Feel Good) (#3 US, #1 R&B, #29 UK), Lost Someone (Live) (#94), I’ll Go Crazy (Live) (#73 US, #28 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only by fanatics

LINEUP: James Brown, the Famous Flames

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Third collection of singles highlights a turbulent time in Brown’s career that started with record company issues and ended with a new direction.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Many of the singles on this collection were churned out and flopped, for a decent reason. Brown and Bobby Byrd were establishing a production company on Smash Records, and some Brown releases snuck out on that label. Meanwhile, King Records were milking his live albums (and releasing quite a few of them as well), and released singles from there.

The result was a 1964 that was fallow except for “Out of Sight”, which was a prototype for his huge crossover “I Got You (I Feel Good)”. Brown also released some instrumental records featuring him at the organ, and that’s not what the fans wanted.

It wasn’t until the back-to-back smashes of “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and “I Got You” that Brown started his revolution in soul and R&B. Those come near the end of this volume, and it’s just not enough to really recommend this volume.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Smash released nine James Brown singles in total, with only charting in the Top 30, and only one that hit the R&B charts.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C+:  1964 was probably the low point of Brown’s studio career in his prime, and it wasn’t until late 1965 that he came back to make great records. The huge hits at the end can be found almost anywhere else.

James Brown – Live at the Apollo

ARTIST: James Brown                                           220px-james_brown-live_at_the_apollo_album_cover

TITLE:  Live at the Apollo

YEAR RELEASED: 1963

CHART ACTION: #2

SINGLES: Think, Lost Someone (#94), I’ll Go Crazy (#73, #28 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Any James Brown fan knows this stuff.

LINEUP: James Brown, Bobby Byrd, Bobby Bennett, Lloyd Stallworth, Lewis Hamlin, Hubert Perry, Clayton Fillyau, Les Buie, Fats Gonder, Clifford MacMillan, St. Clair Pinckney, Brisco Clark, William Burgess, Dicke Wells, Roscoe Patrick, Teddy Washington

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: THE trailblazing live set, and set a bar for live records that many bands still can’t reach today.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Thankfully, the master tapes of this concert recording were found, because it would be a shame if we couldn’t hear this record as pristine and clear as possible. And my goodness, this isn’t just a muddy tape from the soundboard.

Raving about the sound is great, but the performance by Brown, the Famous Flames and his band? Smokin’ smokin’ smokin’. Les Buie on guitar and Hubert Perry on bass set everything up, Clayton Fillau’s drums are on point, and Fats Gonder on organ (and MC duties) adds the perfect support and fills. The horns? Fantastic. The Flames on backing vocals? Tight.

Then there’s James Brown. You can sense him working the crowd, leading the band, interacting, dancing, modulating to the bridge, everything. The screams from the crowd prove it. He’s giving the performance of his life, and this recording catapulted him to his rightful place in the music pantheon.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Believe it or not, Brown had to pay for the recording himself, since his record company boss Syd Nathan didn’t think live albums of old material would sell. Welp…

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, just the mixes used to release the singles.

GRADE: A+:  Believe the hype – both about this record AND James Brown’s performance skills.

James Brown – The Singles, Volume 2: 1960-1963

ARTIST: James Brown                    jbrown-2

TITLE:  The Singles, Volume 2: 1960-1963

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 40: Bewildered (#40, #8 R&B), I Don’t Mind (#47, #4 R&B), Baby You’re Right (#49, #2 R&B), Just You and Me, Darling (#17 R&B), Lost Someone (#48, #2 R&B), Night Train (#35, #5 R&B), Shout and Shimmy (#16 R&B), Mashed Potatoes, USA (#82, #21 R&B), Three Hearts in a Tangle (#93, #18 R&B), Like a Baby (#24 R&B), Prisoner of Love (#18, #6 R&B), These Foolish Things (#55, #25 R&B), Oh Baby, Don’t You Weep (#23)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Doubtful unless you’re a JB junkie!

LINEUP: James Brown & His Famous Flames

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second collection of singles shows Brown and his band moving towards a harder soul sound, setting the table for his funk revolution. Brown does follow some dance trends, but makes them his own due to his talent and magnetism.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This era of James Brown may not be as well known as others. He (or his company) mined all of the dance crazes of the time (The Twist, the Mashed Potatoes), and also adding his twist to stuff like “Shout”. So it may, on paper, be derivative, but it was really far from that.

Brown was an entertainer and a crowd pleaser, and knew what his audiences wanted. He was also an innovater and had a great eye and ear for the future, so he’d modulate his band over past the current trends into something slightly more funky and soulful, and then you’d get something like “I’ve Got Money” – a B-side that’s a lot funkier than anything in 1962.

There’s some stuff that won’t trip your trigger. He starts his fascination with organ instrumentals, so if you’re not a Hammond Organ type of guy you may want to skip those.  He also did some sessions with orchestras which kind of waters him down, I believe (though “Prisoner of Love” was his first Top 20 hit on the regular pop chart).

This is a great collection to demonstrate the evolution of Brown from 50’s R&B to his 60’s persona.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He was moved over to King Records for these singles, the main label, from Federal.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. There is an acetate demo of “Bewildered”

GRADE: A:  Because this isn’t a well-known era of James Brown, it’s even more relevatory, especially since it all folds out to you in chronological order.

 

 

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

CHART ACTION: None

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)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Good Good Lovin’

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.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Nope.

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

James Brown – Try Me!

ARTIST: James Brown James_Brown_Try_Me
TITLE: Try Me!
YEAR RELEASED: 1959
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: Try Me (#48 US, #1 R&B), I Want You So Bad (#20 R&B)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really.
LINEUP: James Brown, Big Bill Hollings, JW Archer, Louis Madison, Bobby Byrd, Nafloyd Scott, Nash Knox, Johnny Terry, Sylvester Keels and other musicians.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After the success of “Try Me” King Records puts out a collection of two singles, B-sides and leftover tracks they had laying around.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Ah, record companies in the 50’s and 60’s. Who cares if the same track (even same recording of the track) was on a previous album? WE NEED PRODUCT! Thus, this second collection from James Brown & The Fabulous Flames repeated “Try Me” from his first album, and mixed together tracks from recordings throughout the 50’s, which featured different versions of the Flames.

While the tracks are OK, except for the singles there’s really nothing extraordinary or outstanding. Well, except the title of “Fine Old Foxy Self” which I had no idea that foxy was in the vernacular in the 50’s. You learn something every day.

If you’re an absolute freak or a completitst – then grab this. Else, the key tracks are on singles or hit compilations.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Brown and the Flames manager decided that they should change their name to The Fabulous Flames with James Brown. The Flames revolted – and Brown hired another vocal group. Then in 1959 – he fired that group and asked Bobby Byrd to come back.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C+: Downgraded for repeating tracks.

 

James Brown – Please Please Please

ARTIST: James Brown 220px-Please_Please_Please_album_cover
TITLE: Please Please Please
YEAR RELEASED: 1959
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: Please, Please, Please (#105, #5 R&B), Try Me (#48, #1 R&B), I Don’t Know, No No No No, Chonnie-On-Chon, Just Won’t Do Right
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No. The rest were songs that were B-sides or single rejects.
LINEUP: James Brown, Bobby Byrd, Johnny Terry, Sylvester Keels, Bill Hollings, Louis Madison, Natfloyd Scott and session guys.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: King Records cashes in after “Try Me” hits and releases all of Brown’s singles and sessions to date.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: “Please, Please, Please” sold a million copies, but nothing else stuck until “Try Me” was released two years later. By then the original Flames (who recorded a lot of these songs with Brown as lead) had split and Brown was on his own.

No matter, because Brown was on his way. This album catches Brown and the Flames at their leanest and hungriest. They keep trying for that next hit so there’s a lot of effort here. And since King wanted to entice buyers, they put 16 tracks on this one.

It’s really good 50’s vocal group R&B, a little too southern to really be doo-wop, but Brown’s lead and the Flames’ answers do evoke that style somewhat. Not every song is a winner, but Brown wrote all but three of the 16, so he was going down swinging with his own stuff.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The legend is that Little Richard wrote the words “Please, Please, Please” on a napkin for Brown, and he made a song out of those words.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B-: Everything here is OK, and the two hits are nice. It’s not essential Brown except for the hits, but fans of early R&B will dig it.