James Brown: Best of Live At the Apollo – 50th Anniversary

james brownJames Brown
Best of Live At the Apollo: 50th Anniversary
(Universal Records)

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James Brown’s Best of Live At The Apollo: 50th Anniversary is a compilation of 12 tracks taken from three Brown live albums, all recorded from performances at the legendary Harlem theater in 1962, 1963, 1967, 1968 and 1971.

We get announcer Lucas “Fats” Gonder introducing Mr. Brown by shouting out the man’s hits to a crowd just about ready to explode. Then we’re into a 1962 recording of the ’50s ballad “Try Me,” with James all soulful and sexy. A snappin’ hot “Night Train” from the same year follows, showcasing the James Brown Band’s great horn section and organist. “There Was A Time” (taken from a ’67 show) is that perfect example of James and his band jamming on one guitar funky riff (it’s evident where Prince gets it from). Then we roll into “Cold Sweat,” and “Please, Please, Please” from the same year, all funktastic numbers, with “Please” showcasing James Brown’s higher vocal range.

A 1971 “Sex Machine” is here as is “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved” (basically just a guitar jam, once again) and “Soul Power”’s call-and-response with the audience. Though brilliantly played, all one gets is the sense that it would have been much better to have watched James Brown dance and push his band then it is simply just hearing these tunes.

“Hot Pants Road” and “There It Is” are from the latest year, 1972, and they positively smoke. This is a cracker-jack mature band behind James, a wall-o’-funk if I dare be so bold, especially in the big instrumental “Hot Pants”, featuring the horn players as it does. Then the amazing keyshifting, swirl of “There It Is” ends it all.


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