Sunday, 4 August 2019

James Brown - In The Jungle Groove (1969-1971)

Get up, get into it, get involved....


Recordings from 1969-1971

Running time 70.47

This was an excellent compilation of James Brown's funkiest material from the 1969-1971 period. Brown and his band were really cooking during this time. A lot of the material is scattered around on other funk compilations, but here it is collected all on one album. A whole hour of it, however, does get a little samey, despite the obvious quality, so a good thing to do is dip into it for twenty minutes or so.


1. It's A New Day
2. Funky Drummer
3. Give It Up (Or Turn It A Loose)
4. I Got To Move
5. Funky Drummer (Reprise)
6. Talkin' Loud And Sayin' Nothing
7. Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved
8. Soul Power
9. Hot Pants
10. Blind Man Can See It                                        

It's A New Day sets the trend for the album - an effortless groove of solid, kick-ass funk, with repeated funky guitar lines, a bit like those used by Nigerian Fela Kuti over the next couple of decades. Brown and his band just get into a groove and keep the pot boiling, musically and vocally. Funky Drummer is a delight - full of irresistible bass driving along the inexorable rhythm, along with a funky organ, sumptuous saxophone and, of course, some huge fatback funky drums. Check out some of those solo bits. "Bring on the juice, make me sweat..." exhorts Brown in trademark style.

Give It Up (Or Turn It A Loose) has a completely infectious organ riff and accompanying pounding drums and bass. Brown uses the "sex machine" lyric as he improvises. The percussion/cymbal work is also intoxicating. The bass and drum interplay near the end is sublime - deep, warm and rhythmic. I Got To Move is introduced by some congas, giving a slight change to the sound. The eventual rhythm is slightly more laid-back and vaguely jazzy with its smooth horns and guitar licks. It is a track packed full of verve and melody under its funk. Funky Drummer (Reprise) is a quick couple of minutes concentrating solely on the drum beat with rumbling bass and a few vocal and guitar/percussion interjections. Once more, it is totally addictive.

Talkin' Loud And Sayin' Nothin' has more of that seductive percussion - crystal clear, razor-sharp cymbals propelling it all along again with more help from the horns. The interaction between the band members is just instinctively brilliant. Superb stuff. Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved continues the groove, this time featuring some killer late sixties Hendrix-esque electric guitar. Soul Power features the familiar guitar-picking riff that appears throughout most of the tracks. While it is very seductive, it is basically the same riff. Brown introduces his "go to the bridge" improvised vocal request that he has used many times. Hot Pants is almost exactly the same. Blind Man Can See It has a slightly different feel, with a deeper bass line and that jazzy vibe again, particularly on the funky jazz keyboards.

Overall, however, seventy minutes of the same guitar riff being recycled, with random occasional vocals, is too much, but twenty minutes of it is fine. That is how I prefer to listen to it. Or mixed in with other shorter, different-sounding funky tracks as part of a random shuffle. Then the tracks really stand out for the wonderful pieces of instrumentation they are.