This week many things have been running through my mind. Do this, finish that and prepare so and so until you get to the next task. These days I have also been preparing a follow-up for the UvA article. Recently a new camera lens arrived and the list goes on. Instead of focusing on these things now I feel the time is right to address one of my musical heroes.
Now if you do not know this fine gentleman, soul brother no.1 and Mr. Funky himself let me introduce you. This man, the godfather of Soul James Brown was a living legend. He was born on the 3rd of May 1933 and passed away on Christmas day 2006. He grew up in the state of Georgia of the United States. He has lived through poverty, segregation, post-war U.S. and post-1960 U.S. He went from teenager to Gospel singer to one of the greatest entertainers of the second half of the 20th century.
His cultural importance is so significant that he is what Chuck Berry was to the Beatles. He has been a great inspiration to great entertainers and artists like Michael Jackson and Prince. James Brown and his band, usually the JB’s introduced a new sound to the already existing R&B scene and after “Live At The Apollo” he made a permanent impression. His approach to music and his combination of grooves with his unique performance style influenced peers and later entertainers.
The album cover you see is the first James Brown album I bought. This album has changed my life. It is not a real album, more a compilation of some of his best recordings that work well together. “In The Jungle Groove” is not the conventional “best of” compilation. This album highlights his musical directions within the R&B, Soul and Funk genres.
“It’s A Brand New Day” is more R&B oriented in sound with a progressive message for the sisters. “Funky Drummer” is a “Free Funk” masterpiece of how to make a minimal musical composition too groovy to resist. Clyde Stubblefield is one of my favourite drummers because of this track. “Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose” is the dance track that simply builds on its groove to make your feet move.
“I Got To Move” is the slow Jazz oriented groove that makes you shuffle your feet. “Funky Drummer (Bonus Beat Reprise)” is the break-beat groove that inspired to the new movement called Hip Hop. “Talkin’ Loud & Sayin’ Nothing” is the activist song built on a solid groove. Talk the talk and walk the walk or just say nothing. “Get Up, Get Into It And Get Involved” goes a step beyond and calls on the listener to get involved. I consider it the political and civil rights movement song of the album.
“Soul Power” is an ambiguous jam with a groove that once heard, simply gets you moving. You have to have soul power in this life of wear and tear. “Hot Pants” is the track specifically dedicated to the sexy ladies. It is funky indeed. “Blind Man Can See It” is what happens when The Meters meets James Brown. This is a slow meandering composition where Funk meets Jazz and after a minute it surprises you with a twist that is too funky for words. The title of the track describes how I feel when I hear this track: you close your eyes and you feel that groove.
Because of this album I have developed a particular love for break-beats, grooves and instrumentals. I explored Hip Hop, Jazz and collected the best James Brown recordings I could find for years. I consider “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” one of his signature tracks. It it difficult to explain how his music almost forces you to dance. Thing is once that feeling hits you, you simply get it. James Brown & The JB’s created a sound that was completely different.
Before I cannot stop writing I must confess that this album is playing while I am writing. If not I cannot do justice to this music and that leads to the last question. To quote Mr Dynamite: “ain’t it funky?”