Monday, January 01, 2007

Disco Delivery #31:
Original Disco Man, Part One.



James Brown - Give It Up or Turnit a Loose (1970, King)
James Brown - Eyesight (1978, Polydor)
James Brown - For Goodness Sakes, Look At Those Cakes (1978, Polydor)
James Brown - Medley: Get Up Offa That Thing/Release The Pressure (1976, Polydor)
James Brown - Bodyheat (1976, Polydor)

Before I do a little something on his "Original Disco Man" (1979, Polydor) LP, I figure there's no better time than now to showcase some of James Brown's other disco-era efforts..

It was sort of ironic in a way, that James Brown had to struggle to find a place within disco, a genre which he had, in large part, laid the foundations for. Despite efforts to re-brand his sound as the "James Brown New Disco Sound" (see "Jam 1980's"), it seems he never really managed to establish a firm place within disco itself. Much of the criticism of his material at the time, that he was at times repeating himself, at times copying others, and just generally losing steam are probably well-founded given the circumstances he was in at the time (financial problems, record label friction, shifting musical landscape etc..). While I can't speak for too many of the albums he released during that time and how even or uneven they were, or some of his outside productions for the JB's or Martha High, I should say that he still made some generally good records under his own name, good dance records at that, whether or not they were in the generally accepted mold of disco. They were records that seemed like they were essentially James Brown doing or at least trying to do disco, his way..

"Get Up Offa That Thing" is probably the most prominent and successful example of that. His last big US hit until "Living In America," it's no coincidence that it's refrain: "get up offa that thing, and try to release that pressure" goes straight to the essence of disco. "Eyesight" off his "Jam 1980's" (1978, Polydor) album would probably be another example. One of my personal favourites from his late '70s output; relentlessly funky with a hot, tight, blistering bass right up front complete with JB himself exclaiming "disco!" between verses. Doesn't overstay it's welcome, yet goes on long enough to satisfy.

Another one that I had to put up was, "For Goodness Sakes, Look At Those Cakes," which is, so far, one of the craziest things I've ever heard from him. When I first heard this song several months back, I thought it represented everything that went wrong with James Brown during the disco era.. An equal parts ridiculous, embarassing and hilarious ("for goodness sakes, Stevie Wonder, would you look at those cakes!") JB-style ode to booty, it felt like a kind of musical trainwreck: completely messy, slightly vulgar, but on the other hand completely, totally irresistable. No matter what I thought of it and for whatever reason, I just couldn't stop listening to it. So much so that it's become one of those James Brown tracks that I enjoy quite often now. The epitome of a guilty pleasure, if there ever was one.. I guess you can put all that craziness over some wild percussion, a tight, meaty bassline with a frantic beat and I'm sold.

Similar to "Get Up Offa That Thing" is "Bodyheat," both are around 8/9 minute extended jams, and both tracks as well, to quote a review off the All Music Guide, pretty much find their groove and work it to death. Particularly in the case of "Body Heat," which perhaps goes on for a little longer than necessary, but still leaves it's mark with an unmistakably funky, engaging guitar/bass combo and that refrain: "What's that!? (body heat!)."

Lastly, I don't think I could put a post like this up and omit another one of my personal favourites, the superior live version of "Get On Up or Turnit a Loose" from his "Sex Machine" (1970, King) LP.. Not one of his disco-era efforts, but in my opinion one of the funkiest, most danceable things he ever did. An undeniably dynamic performance which picks up the tempo and effectively leaves the original in the dust. In fact I'd even say that it probably overshadows anything he did in the disco era for that matter. James Brown and the JB's right at the top of their game.

Aside from "..Turn it a Loose," most of the selections above came from the double CD compilation "Dead On The Heavy Funk (1975-1983)" (1998, Polydor), which I had downloaded a little while back. Possibly the best summary of his much maligned late '70s material. Unfortunately it's now out of print and going for around $100 on Amazon.com and elsewhere, although still (mostly) available for purchase/download on the US iTunes store.

In closing, I hope to have a post for "The Original Disco Man" LP up soon. While I can't promise it will be the last James Brown-related post (I'm waiting for the Martha High disco LP that I bought a few weeks back), it will be the third and last in this latest series. In the mean time, enjoy the files (and happy new year!)..

LINKS:
JAMES BROWN @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
JAMES BROWN @ DISCOGS
ROBERT CHRISTGAU REVIEWS JAMES BROWN

CNN.COM - HOMETOWN SAYS GOODBYE TO JAMES BROWN (DECEMBER 31, 2006)
WRDW TV AUGUSTA - HIGHLIGHTS OF JAMES BROWN'S 'HOMEGOING CELEBRATION' (DECEMBER 31, 2006)

BOSTON PHOENIX - HEAVY FUNK: DEAD ON JAMES BROWN (JULY 13, 1998)
EYE WEEKLY - GET ON THE GOOD FOOT: JAMES BROWN REISSUES (DECEMBER 24, 1998)
GENERAL SMITH'S RECORD REVIEWS - DEAD ON THE HEAVY FUNK

PURCHASE:
JAMES BROWN - DEAD ON THE HEAVY FUNK (1975-1983) 2 CD | iTUNES US | AMAZON.COM
JAMES BROWN - SEX MACHINE (INCLUDES LIVE VERSION OF "GET ON UP OR TURNIT A LOOSE") | CDUNIVERSE.COM | AMAZON.COM | AMAZON.CA | AMAZON.CO.UK | AMAZON.DE | AMAZON.FR

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
GOODBYE TO THE GODFATHER..


CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, IN MEMORIAM.., ARTICLES & RAMBLINGS

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