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Messing With the Blues

4.5 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 22, 1995
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Editorial Reviews

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Just as James Brown sometimes filled out his '60s and '70s albums with instrumental band showcases, so did he occasionally therein tip his hat to his sources. Messing With the Blues collects remakes of classic R&B tunes by the likes of Louis Jordan, Roy Brown and Little Willie John. This may not be major JB, but it's an entertaining set--one that reveals a side of the man that both junior funkateers and nouveau-swing followers should pick up on. --Rickey Wright
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 22, 1995)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Polygram Records
  • ASIN: B000001FZG
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #252,209 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Amazon's James Brown Store

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
During his lengthy career, James Brown has often paid tribute to his own musical inspirations, jump blues shouters like Wynonie Harris, Bullmoose Jackson and Roy Brown, doo-wop and rhythm and blues groups like Billy Ward and the Dominoes, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters and the Five Royales, blues performers like Memphis Slim; and above all, Louis Jordan and his Tympani Five. He also recorded a tribute album to Little Willie John immediately following his death in prison.

These and other items of homage are collected together on these two CDs and are presented in the chronological order in which James Brown would have first experienced the songs. Sandwiched between two chunks of Like It Is, Like It Was, which has James Brown rapping about the blues, the set starts with Erskine Hawkins' 1942 hit Don't Cry Baby, and ends with his own answer record to the Five Royales' Wonder Where Your Love Has Gone from 1959.

Two versions of the much covered Little Willie Littlefield classic Kansas City (originally called KC Lovin'), one from 1967 and one from 1975, clearly show the evolution of the James Brown sound.

Although entirely comprising back catalogue, it would be a mistake for any James Brown aficionado to imagine there could be nothing of interest for them as all but eight of the thirty tracks are previously unissued in the form found here. Two are in true stereo for the first time - 1961's I Love You Yes I Do and Ivory Joe Hunter's Waiting In Vain from the following year (only four of the songs on the 2CD are mono). Some are alternative takes, some are full version debuts of songs previously released in edited form or, in the case of Honky Tonk, chopped into two for both sides of a single, by the "James Brown Soul Train".
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Format: Audio CD
James Brown often paused from his history-making original music to glance back at his influences: jump bandleaders like Louis Jordan, R&B crooners like Little Willie John, Ruth and Roy Brown, vocal groups like labelmates The Five Royales and Billy Ward's Dominoes.
20 years of that tribute is featured on "Messing With The Blues" which features larger, more disciplined arrangements and (for JB) singing that you hear on spontaneous combustions like "Cold Sweat." Brown all-out attacks Louis Jordan's sly "Caledonia" and "Ain't Nobody Here," punctuating the end with thrilling, ear-piercing screams. He goes over-the-top, half-singing, half-crying the Dominoes' "The Bells." "Everyday I Have The Blues" and "Farther Up The Road" vocally transcend BB King's and Bobby Bland's great versions. "Talk To Me," and "Suffering With The Blues," recorded after Little Willie John's death in 1968, express John's early influence on Brown and the sorrow JB felt over his loss. (A commercial promoting that album is included for curiousity.)
The song that introduces and closes this album, "Like It Is, Like It Was," explains why JB needed to cover these songs despite their lesser chart performances. Surrounded by his second great band, JB sorrowfully describes his childhood, pays tribute to modern R&B bluesmen and wishes again to touch his musical and family roots. "New York's OK," he sings, "but I want to go home!" He spends most of the songs in these discs beautifully proving and achieving that goal. A highly recommended, underrated James Brown collection.
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Format: Audio CD
Most know James Brown as the Godfather of Soul and one of the forefathers of R&B. But in the late 50's and early 60's JB took a pause for the cause and paid his respects to the likes of Memphis Slim, Louis Jordan, Chuck Willis, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Little Willie John and others that laid the foundation for what became the blues. Make no mistake about it, JB does not in anyway imitate these great performers but instead, interprets these songs with the powerful voice and antics that eventually made JB famous. In fact, while this is a tribute to the blues, the style here leans heavily toward R&B. There is some great stuff here including the heartfelt introduction "Like It Is, Like It Was" and "Somebody Done Changed The Lock On My Door". If you like the 60's Mowtown sound, and you want somewhat of a trip down memory lane, find this CD and buy it.
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Format: Audio CD
This is just so damn good! This has been my favorite JB compilation since it originally came out. I cannot add much to what has already been said. So many good cuts here, the highlight is to have the Big Band sides that were originally on the LP "Showtime", with all the dubbed in crowd noise removed. Two highlights from that session include Louis Jordan's hits: "Caledonia" & "Aint Nobody here but us Chickens". Also there are some wonderful unissued sides particularly the talking blues "Like It Is,Like It Was" where James name drops all his musical heroes. His high energy soul sides need a certain party mood to put on, while this compilation you can listen to anytime, Blues, Big Band Jump, Ballads... he could do it all, what genius!!
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Format: Audio CD
I wish they called this CD set, "Messing With The Blues (And A Taste Of Jazz)" in consideration of the interesting tributes to Louis Jordan and others, but the entire package is so beautifully put together - song selection, artwork, liners, sound - that some minor inconsistencies - or ommissions ("Home Again", "Why Does Everything Happen To Me?", "Doin' The Best I Can") won't give the listener any iota of the blues.
We have straight ahead blues, some blues ballads ("Waiting In Vain"), some heavy uptempo swingin' blues "("Good Rockin' Tonight"), and an incredible blues-jazz ballad "Don't Cry Baby", a near hysterical plea for peace in a relationship. Serious adult stuff - no "pop" crossover, here.
What a pleasure to have vault foray treasures like Fats Domino's "Goin' Home", and Chuck Willis' "Don't Deceive Me (Please Don't Go)" - the producers, compilers should get a Grammy for these entries alone.
Finally, check out the alternate take of the 1967 "Kansas City" from the "Cold Sweat" session. Down a decibel or two from the "Cold Sweat" album/single release, but I feel it should have found a comfortable spot on any number of issues back in the JB soul to funk era.
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