Saturday, 23 November 2019

James Brown - The Singles 1956-1981

I feel good....


You simply can't argue with any of the ELEVEN volumes of James Brown's remarkable singles career, dating from his churchy, gospel roots in 1956, through the rock'n'roll influenced soul/pop of the early sixties, the r'n'b of the mid/late sixties, the bubbling, cookin' funk of the seventies and then interesting experiments into disco and even country by the end of the seventies and start of the eighties. Take your pick, any of it is wonderful, remastered to an incredibly high standard, but my personal favourites have always been the mega-funky years of 1972-75 and even the more disco-influenced period of 1975-79 found many songs delivered with a decidedly funky flavour. Just check out things like Superbad Superslick or Everybody Wanna Get Funky One More Time. There are some critics I have read who questioned the "blaxploitation"/Black Caesar period when Brown tried to get in on the Isaac Hayes/Curtis Mayfield socially-conscious thing, but I never had a problem with it - the funk that it produced was of the highest quality.


Brown was always such a perfectionist that a lot of the songs overflowed into "jams", so much so that many of them are divided into "Parts 1 & 2", but, as often was the case such as with songs like The Temptations' Papa Was A Rolling Stone, the instrumental "Part 2" was seriously infectious. Often the band would just carry on recording once they got into it. Yes, Brown was guilty of over-indulgence on a fair few occasions and a lot of his grooves were repeated on track after track over several years, but when the sound and the vibe is that good, I have to say I don't really care, particularly if these collections are cherry-picked. A great way of playing this cornucopia of material is by piling them all up into a "play" queue and selecting "random", then you really get to hear what a superb artist Brown was. It is probably the only way to do it, it is simply too daunting to play them all chronologically - you would be holed up for days. Just dip in to the vaults for an hour or  so every now and again for maximum appreciation potential.


What is incredible is that each of these monster compilations covers a mere couple of years in Brown's career. The amount of material included is phenomenal and when you consider that it is just the singles and 'b' sides then it shows that Brown really was incredibly prolific. I have to say that every time I listen to any of this stuff I find it incredibly enjoyable. The sound is excellent throughout too - big, warm and bassy, as it should be.