Wednesday, April 28, 2010

414 James Brown’s 20 greatest hits.

Album: 20 greatest hits.
Artist: James Brown
Year: 1991
Genre: Soul


  1. I Got You (I Feel Good)
  2. Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine, Pt. 1
  3. I Got the Feelin'
  4. Mother Popcorn, Pt. 1
  5. Give It Up or Turnit a Loose
  6. Make It Funky, Pt. 1
  7. Papa's Got a Brand New Bag, Pt. 1
  8. Think
  9. It's a Man's Man's Man's World
  10. Try Me
  11. Night Train
  12. Cold Sweat, Pt. 1
  13. Get on the Good Foot
  14. Papa Don't Take No Mess, Pt. 1
  15. The Payback
  16. Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud, Pt.
  17. Super Bad, Pts. 1 & 2
  18. Hot Pants, Pt. 1
  19. Get Up Offa That Thing
  20. Please, Please, Please

Good funk/ soul music is actually surprisingly easy to make. All you need is a good beat given extra oomph by a bass and rhythm guitar with some horns for added colour. Then the final ingredient is a vocalist who can sing meaningless tosh over the top of it. Lyrics chosen at random and punctuated by yelps, howls and screeches are all a soul singer needs. Don’t bother writing anything profound when you can easily fill in time with stuff about a parent’s recently purchased luggage, directions for your band and single word non-sequiters: “Yaaaah! Wooo! Papa’s got a well stacked toolbox. That’s what I’m talking about, play it again, yeah! Toast, I said toast! Hatracks. Whoa yeah!”

As a formula it might sound easy but that doesn’t stop some of the tracks on this release from being some of the most exciting stuff committed to vinyl. (I got you) I feel good is one of the most instantly magnificent tracks you’ll find anywhere. It’s a testament to how good this song is that you can still be possessed by an insatiable urge to boost the volume and dance when it comes on the radio even though it’s been overused on soundtracks and commercials for the past twenty years. Is there anyone out there who can honestly say this song doesn’t make them feel good? I’m not suggesting that a quick listen can cure chronic depression or turn an Emo Kid into a mousketeer but having I feel good as your alarm clock in the morning would definitely perk you up no end.It's like audible cocaine that you sniff through your ears. And unlike some compilations there is more to appreciate on this release than just the biggest hit single. (Get up) I feel like being a sex machine is funk at it's finest, It's a Man's Man's Man's world proves that Brown is as great a singer as he is a showman and Papas got a brand new bag is the best song about a scrotum transplant I've ever heard in my life (well possibly second behind Sing sing sing with a swing).

This is one of those albums that struggles to put a foot wrong. It's the sound of a master doing what he does best. Nobody did this as well as Brown and because he was the best he could get the greatest players to back him. From all reports Brown was a real tyrant to work for. He demanded perfection from his band and refused to settle for anything less than 110%. The fact that people stayed around and played with him is testament to what an absolute blast it must have been to be backing the hardest working man in showbusiness. When Brown was on stage there was nobody who could touch him for showmanship. He gave his audiences the most exciting concert experience of their lives and being involved in that spectacle would have been indescribable. You could endure working for a fascist with enormous hair if your nights were spent receiving a tiny fraction of the adoration he commanded from the audience.

While this album is a dud-free experience I definitely responded better to the more upbeat and funkier numbers. The slower ballads like Try Me, which strayed perilously close to doo-wop territory weren't really my cup of tea. It's not to say they were bad tracks but when sandwiched in amongst some of the greatest dance grooves ever committed to a vinyl groove they were slight flat spots. But then in a concert environment he needed some slower songs to give his audience a chance to catch their breath.

Highlight: I'll give you a clue, it will make you feel good.

Lowlight: Try Me.

Influenced by: The Blues.

Influenced: Aerosmith.

Favourite Amazon Customer review Quote: "Apparently Mr. Brown doesn't articulate very well, however, he makes up for it by screaming the "lyrics". "

-Clear diction. We all know it's the most important part of any musical experience.

So does the Godfather of Soul make you an offer you can't refuse or does he just leave a horses head in the bed of your music tastes? Let me know below.


  1. That comment about Papa's Got a Brand New Bag caused me to laugh coffee through my nose, so thanks for that!

    He really was in a class of his own wasn't he?


  2. Yes he was. A possible candidate for the greatest showman in popular music.

  3. The problem with this particular album being on the list is the fact that it is basically a more compact version of the "Star Time" retrospective box-set (released at the same time), which is also on the list, further on down at #79 (and rightfully so!). So, of course I can't diss James Brown (he is a fantastic musician!), but rather I am specifically criticizing Rolling Stone for adding yet another pointless album on to the list, that is similar to another album on the list, instead of another, completely different, but just as great album. As another example, think of the redundancy of listing both "With the Beatles" (at #420) AND "Meet the Beatles!" (much higher up @ #59) on the same darn list. Except this is even more redundant because it LITERALLY has the EXACT SAME bits and pieces of the highly regarded box set "Star Time." Whereas "With" and "Meet" by The Beatles had slightly different track listings, this one had the exact same songs that were also in the box set. So, yes it was a great review, and I agree with your opinion on James Brown (he's awesome!). However, I at least wonder what you think about the actual merit of the placement of this album on the list.

  4. Good point. I've made a few references to how annoying the list is and how there are best-ofs that replicated tracks we've already seen. I think I'll have something to say about this particular issue when I get to the box at number 79.