Monday, December 04, 2006

the Soul of JB part one .



This is a very hot topic hotter than ever , im writing a small but very hard breakdown of vinyl from the ‘Godfather of soul’ Mr. James Brown. Everybody knows that his career started about 40 years ago with a very soulful piece but it hasn’t finished yet because our Godfather is still playing all over the world, he is also recording an album that will be the soundtrack to the new ‘Rocky’ film! The part of his discography that I would like to recommend is that which goes up to the end of the 60’s and beginning of the 70’s, the same years that have become a habit for ‘The Soul Beat’. That which follows doesn’t wish to be a detailed list of his records but just a taste of his capacity in inventing a sound that still goes today… frightening! We shall start the journey with “Grits And Soul” where James might not even be recognised because he doesn’t sing but instead plays the Hammond organ: we are talking about a collection of pieces that range from soul to honky tonk right up to orchestral R’n’B with “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Wolf” (a classic that was even done by Jimmy Smith) that I would strongly recommend to all those who love soul from the mid 60’s. Following there is “It’s A New Day” (that begins to be more R’nB even if Soul is still in charge) in which groovy pieces such as “Let A Man Come And Do The Popcorn”, “Give It Up Or Turn It Loose” and “It’s A New Day” alternate with big dance numbers like “It’s A Mans Mans World” or “Georgia On My Mind”. The album “Say Loud I’m Black And I’m Proud” starts to show us that Brown has some clear ideas about politics, about Soul and about what he wants… this is because he is beginning to become a kind of God and many are beginning to take note! In this case also songs like the title track or “Licking Stick” alternate with other cooler ones like “I Love You” or “Maybe I’ll Understand”. To keep under observation, also, are a few instrumental singles that represent rare material because James likes so much to sing. Not many know that he, apart from dancing, is an orchestra leader as well as arranger, he also plays the organ, therefore there comes out 7”’s such as “Shhhhhh For A Little While” (remember that I mentioned this in the Boogaloo edition of ‘The Soul Beat’) or “The Soul Of JB” b/w “Funky Soul” on the KING label as well as the very rare and much sought after instrumental “The Drunk” on BETHLEM that, with the difference to the others, is not contained on any album. To follow there was “The Popcorn” that, apart from being the name of a dance that he invented, is also the title of the album where ‘our man’ leads and dances with the JB Band! In it, even picking with your eyes closed, we can find brilliant songs such as “The Popcorn”, “Soul Pride”, “In The Middle pt. 1 & 2”, “The Chicken” or “The Chase” (just to name a few). In these pieces you can hear that things are slowing down and that the groove is getting ever deeper: next is the birth of true funk! On the album “It’s A Mother” James invented definitely the ‘Funky with feeling’ sound with pieces such as “Mother Popcorn”, “Mashed Potatoes Popcorn” and “You’re Still Out Of Side” (there is no use mentioning “Pop Corn With A Felling” and the others!). In 1970 James Brown changed his band and published another instrumental album entitled “Ain’t It Funky” in which there is (in my opinion) the first true Funky pieces such as “Ain’t It Funky”, “Nose Job” (the title says it all!!), “Use Your Mother” and “Cold Sweat”: in my opinion this album will remain a milestone in the JB story, even if it is one of the lesser known ones. Before finishing off the first part of this edition of ‘The Soul Beat’ I want to mention another album, also instrumental, one of which I redefined my opinion on JB… It is entitled “Sho Is Funky Down Here” and represents a monumental parenthesis that James opened and closed during his long career. The mentioned album is nothing but a Funky Trip of Hammond, Clavinet, Fuzz Guitar and Wah Wah Grooves whilst the sound that it unleashes is a kind of cross between the soundtrack to a porn or police film. I highly recommend that you hunt it out and take a careful listen: you will be nicely surprised! It is now time to say goodbye so see you in the nest edition with ‘The Soul Of JB part 2”… naturally in ‘The Soul Beat’! Peace all around and make it funky!

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