Friday, July 27, 2007

No. 79: Star Time

Band: James Brown
Album: Star Time
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: James Brown basically invented funk and this boxed set chronicles his invention of the form, basically. From the soul of "Please Please Please" to the duet with Afrikaa Bambaatta ("Unity"), Brown's career is hard to match.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Having boxed sets on here is ridiculous, especially career retrospective ones.
Best song: Well, all of disc two is great.
Worst song: Some of the later stuff is not so great. "Rapp Payback (Where Iz Moses)" is particularly stupid and the idea that "It's Too Funky In Here" could actually occur (it's never too funky for James Brown) is ludicrous.
Is it awesome?: Absolutely. It's a favorite of mine.

While "Live At The Apollo" had James Brown as soul singer, pre-funk, "Star Time" spans Brown's career from his work in the '50s until the mid-'80s, when he coupled with Afrika Bambaatta. It's a fuller look at Soul Brother #1, and it's jaw-dropping.

You know my feeling on putting boxed sets on this list; I think it's stupid. "Star Time" especially seems stupidly on this list, as Brown's greatest hits collection comes in at 414. Two collections is overkill.

Brown is a hugely important figure in music, as his 1965 single "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" pretty much invented funk music. Critic Dave Marsh described it as such:

"The only way ['Papa'] could be more bone-rattling would be if James Brown himself leaped from your speakers, grabbed you tight by the shoulders and danced you around the room, all the while screaming straight into your face."

It's hard to think of a world, pre-James Brown, but it apparently existed. That's a scary thought.

James Brown's work isn't particularly varied. The funk of "Papa" isn't hugely different from the funk of "The Big Payback," a song released 15 years later. But, that doesn't take away from the brilliance of it. Four discs? Probably too much. But, James Brown? Absolutely!

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