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23 songs from a creative period!
on May 6, 2006
The '75 to '83 period has been dismissed by writers and fans for too long - you know, JB gave in to Disco and gave up on funk... This collection shows that he kept progressing, inventing, and leading the music culture. Despite reduced airplay...and negative reviews.
I bought each and every JB album in that time frame and found that they all had something new. "Hot (I Need To Be Loved...)" is often referred to as a less-than-inspired offer, as it is very similiar to the Bowie tune. Number one, the Bowie tune would have sounded alot different if something like "Papa Don't Take No Mess" didn't exist. And, more importantly, the Brown track happens to be one of his best produced numbers. It's not a classic but it's worth hearing and studying. I'll concede that the music supercedes the lyrics, though - not his best writing.
"Get Up Offa That Thing..." originated as a "party" record; it was smoothed out for the stage but the '76 hit is here and sounding great. "I Refuse To Lose" is presented in its' single mix but to me there's small difference - either way, the vehicle is stuck in the mud - the rhythm guitar and bass are too far back and so the number lacks drive, which is too bad because it's a great lyric, with an arrangement reminiscent of that used on Junior Wells' and Buddy Guys' 1972 rendition of "Messin' With The Kid". [I'm still waiting for the imagined DVD of JB's incredible performance of the song from "The Midnight Special". *That's* the one that really belonged here].
"Kiss in '77" is another lesser-discussed masterpiece, a melodic, moody ballad I had the chance to see live at the Lone Star Cafe in NY in '80. Here we have another live performance - from '77. The sonics suggest that it is not a soundboard recording and possibly part of a projected live album. It's the highlight of this collection and begs the question - when are we gonna get some more previously unreleased James Brown? Research suggests that there several complete shows still in hibernation.
"Nature Part 1" and "Eyesight" are progressive grooves from the late '70s and have shown up on two videos, one live in Canada, "Live In Concert", and "The Lost James Brown Tapes" set.
"Bessie" is traditional JB, a super dance floor groove; a reasonable presumption is that James was inspired here by Joe Tex's "Ain't Gonna Bump No More...". We hear an interesting reference to "the peanut man", probably the same mythic character described earlier by Lil Johnson on "Get 'Em From The Peanut Man Part 1/2" and by Little Richard on the sensitively titled "Hot Nuts". Echo is used to great effect here.
"I Never, Never Will Forget" appears to be based upon Lynn Collin's "Think (About It)" and is interesting in that JB seems to lower the pitch on the lead vocal, thereby giving the dance number almost a "ballad" feel. His vocal is a bit more melodious that some might expect. It's a nice entry but not a top choice, considering un-used cuts from the great "Mutha's Nature" and "Take A Look..." albums.
"A Man Understands" is another number which found its' way into concert - usually in an unofficial medley with "Sex Machine". The '75 "Sex Machine" found here actually anticipates the later, related cut. The "Heavy Funk" is heavy here, folks. "Rapp Payback" is on three concert videos and at least one DVD. Actually, it could be thought of as "Rapp Payback (Where Iz Moses)?/"The Payback", as it incorporates the '74 classic.
Another number originating with another label is the closer "Bring It On...", a post-Disco era Disco-Soul sound, a track which should have gone into the Pop Top 40.
"Regrets" is a good ballad, very well delivered, but "Heavy"...no; "Funk"...no. Here was the spot for the never- on-l.p.-or-CD "Dooley's Junkyard Dogs" from '76. If a ballad was necessary for programming, why not JB's "Something". That was the one that George Harrison reportedly said was his favorite version. And yes, another number which never got beyond the 7-inch stage.
Thank you, Producers Weinger and Leeds for an overall super job. [Still waitin' for the first CD issue of "Live At The Garden", guys...please, please, please, please].