From pleading R&B singer to father of funk to black-pride spokesman to full-on pop star, James Brown became one of our most scintillating stars, and this 70-track set is his best retrospective. His '50s hits Please, Please, Please and Try Me give way to Bewildered; Night Train; I Got You (I Feel Good); Papa's Got a Brand New Bag Pt. 1; Cold Sweat; Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud); Get Up Offa That Thang , and all the other hits and extended grooves!
It would seem impossible to summarize James Brown's contribution to R&B--to American music--in a mere four compact discs, but somehow Star Time does it. This boxed set charts Brown's early rise as a hard-hitting R&B-styled vocalist ("Please Please Please," "Try Me") and shows how his bandleading skills (one can't forget inventive players like saxophonist Maceo Parker, bassist Bootsy Collins, drummer Jabo Starks, and many others) changed the face of soul and invented funk in the '60s and early '70s with impeccably timed ("Papa's Got a Brand New Bag"), highly rhythmic ("I Can't Stand It"), primal ("Licking Stick Licking Stick") hits. The box also does a definitive programming job on Brown's more spotty later years--another plus. This is where beginners should start, but several extended versions and rarities (like "Papa," raised an octave on original release, at normal speed) make it a must for completists too. --Don Harrison