Tuesday, June 19, 2007

No. 24: Live At The Apollo (1963)

Band: James Brown
Album: Live At The Apollo
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: To include a James Brown studio album in this list would be blasphemy. Brown's live show was what defined him. At the beginning of his career -- as he was developing his crazed style -- Brown recorded the more straight-up soul songs.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: The James Brown most of us know isn't necessarily on here. "I Got You (I Feel Good)" isn't on here. "Hot Pants" isn't on here. None of this 70s funk is on here. No "Sex Machine."
Best song: The nine-song medley is pretty amazing.
Worst song: "I'll Go Crazy" isn't knockout great.
Is it awesome?: James Brown live? Absolutely.

What can you say about James Brown that hasn't been said yet? I saw James Brown at Taste of Chicago in 1996 whe Brown was 64 years old. He was 64 years old. I don't know that I can stress that enough. He was 64!

We were way back on the lawn, but you could see Brown busting his ass to perform. He faux-fainted and fell down, only to be revived by the crowd. He did dance numbers similar to the old Eddie Murphy "Hot Tub" sketch. He kneeled while a man put a robe-ish thing on him. You know the drill.

He ran around the stage. He sang his ass off and was on-key, which is more than we can say for the Rolling Stones at the same age. He kicked ass and took names.

Again, he was 64.

"Live At The Apollo" was recorded when Brown was a young man simply translating the gospel music he grew up on into a more popular "soul" sound. His "Please Please Please" was a hit single and he was massively popular. The Apollo Theatre was the place for him to hone his skills in week long engagements. The last night of one such week saw Brown record this album on his own dime (the record label didn't want to pay for the recording). The record blisters with energy, as you would expect from "Mr. Dynamite." He rolls through "Night Train" as the album closer and rocks a nine (!) song medley.

1 comment:

bob_vinyl said...

Without a doubt, this is an outstanding album (the Neville Brothers credit it as the greatest live recording ever), but musically, it's just really good R&B. I get the sense that the show was completely amazing, yet I'm not sure that I'm really feeling that or just understanding it intellectually. I have this one, but I seldom play it, yet when I think what that night must've been like, I can't help but marvel.