Monday, 3 June 2019

James Brown - The Payback (1973)

Stone to the bone....

  

Released December 1973

This was one of James Brown's most ambitious albums and contained some of his purest copper-bottomed fatback funk. It lasts well over an hour and contains only eight tracks (it was originally released as a doubly vinyl LP). Each track is arranged in a loose, jam-style fashion, full of consistent funky guitar, metronomic drums, kicking horns and tough, sinuous rhythms. It is almost jazzy in its instinctive interplay between the musicians, Brown's vocal similarly so, as he improvises as the rhythm just rolls on. Fela Kuti did the same on his AfroBeat recordings.

The album would also prove to be one of Brown's last great ones for a while, as his career went into a fallow period soon after lasting until the end of the seventies. The sound quality on it is superb as well, full of deep bass and clear seventies stereo.

The Payback is an undoubted highlight in its vibrant funkiness, but the album is not all cookin' funk, as the smooth, romantic and soulful Doing The Best I Can shows, with Brown's vocal impressive in its versatility. The bass line underpinning this one is gorgeous too. Brown also had a great way of making a studio recording sound like an ad hoc live number. He does so here as he puts a bit of Me And Mrs Jones into the song. The funk on Take Some...Leave Some is so heavy it hurts and its horns are pure Blaxploitation soundtrack fare. Love that wah-wah guitar near the end too.

Check out that supa-funky, rumbling bass on Shoot Your Shot and its infectious percussion, then its jazzy trumpet interjections and that funky organ. Great stuff. Forever Suffering is a wonderful slow burning slice of gospel soul. Stone To The Bone is probably the most familiar, with its Sex Machine references as well.

TRACK LISTING

1. The Payback
2. Doing The Best I Can
3. Take Some...Leave Some
4. Shoot Your Shot
5. Forever Suffering
6. Time Is Running Out Fast
7. Stone To The Bone
8. Mind Power                                                                                      

To be honest, though, however good this album is, I find that an hour and ten minutes of it is probably too much for one sitting, but a track or two at a time is most enjoyable, as indeed is the presence of any of the tracks as part of a classic funk playlist. Having said that, when any of the tracks are playing, I don't get tired of them during their eight minutes or so. They have an addictive quality to them.

B

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