Live at the Apollo

So it feels like it’s been awhile since I’ve written a blog post…so long in fact that wordpress has changed its user interface.  The holidays are the busiest time for musicians and music teachers, plus I’ve had final papers to write and graduate school applications to complete, but I’m back now and hopefully I will have more time to write and to listen to music.  Actually, I was at a show last week that made me think about this album.  I was at the Newport Music Hall (not quite as famous as the Apollo, but still a legendary music hall here in Columbus) to see a CD release show by a local band called the Regrettes.  A fairly new band on the local music scene, the Regrettes play a mix of soul and R&B that is very reminiscent of James Brown and his infectious grooves.  As I listened to the horn line playing very precise fills between the two female singers’ harmonized leads, I thought in my head “this might be the hardest working band in Columbus”.

Anyhow, this James Brown album captures the energy I would expect to hear from “the hardest working man in show business”.  But it is not just the energy that makes this album fun, it is also the sheer precision of James Brown and his backing band, the Famous Flames.  The searing horn lines make way for the vocals at just the right time, and likewise James Brown seems to know exactly when to embellish a line and when to get out of the way of the rhythm section.  For a live performance, it seems to be meticulously crafted.  These are not the James Brown songs I am most familiar with, like “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”, but they are still a great listen (and “I’ll Go Crazy” could easily fit into the soundtrack of a Quentin Tarantino movie).

I also enjoy the rebellious spirit of this album.  Apparently, James Brown’s record label did not want to make a live album, so they would not finance this recording.  Undaunted, James Brown arranged to have the show recorded at his own expense.  Fortunately, the move paid off, and the album became a huge success.  It is even enshrined in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress!  I picked it the original CD edition on Amazon for $7.97, but there is also a more recent release with additional tracks.

Other lists: James Brown is #7 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists and he is #10 on their list of the 100 Greatest Singers.

Ch-ch-changes: This is another album that was bumped down one spot from the original list by Robert Johnson’s “The Complete Recordings”.

My favorite track: “Medley”

Honorable mention: “I’ll Go Crazy”

Quote: “You’ve got to live for yourself; yourself and nobody else”