Friday, July 30, 2010

James Brown - In The Jungle Groove


From sample kings The Avalanches to a sampler's choice artist, James Brown.  But what to say about him?

He's the undisputed Godfather of Soul and quite possibly the funkiest of the funkiest. He lived for music, for entertaining and never slowed down, earning himself the title of 'the hardest working man in show business' and, despite numerous health problems, continued a heavy touring regime right up until his death on Christmas Day, 2006.

In The Jungle Groove features two versions of the heavily sampled Funky Drummer. Used by everyone from Public Enemy to Sinead O'Connor, it's perhaps telling that in certain circles, a sample from it is now considered a clich√©.  But there's no doubting the track, and the rest of the album, are classics of the genre and quite literally one of the best party starters around.



F to the U to the N-K-Y this album just shows how great a musician he was, and how he surrounded himself with the best of the best.  I got to see the late Mr Brown sometime I think in the late 80s.  (Viv, Bill, do you remember when it was?)  And I must admit I was less than impressed by him.  By him, that is, not by his band which produced the tightest, funkiest, sharpest, most amazing sound I had heard to date - and probably the best I've ever heard.

The problem with James Brown was that his band played several songs before he came on, and in between each one, some poor bugger in his band had the job of exciting the audience about the proximity of his arrival.  The audience was definitely left with the feeling that if we didn't scream loud enough, applaud hard enough, he just wouldn't bother gracing us with his presence.

When he made it onstage he was magnificent.  But as I recall, he didn't stay that long.  Maybe I'm maligning him, maybe he was feeling under the weather that day but made it onstage anyway, in the best show-must-go-on tradition.  Whatever it was, it was a bit of a sour note for one of the best in the business.  Can I get a witness?

VERDICT: TURN IT UP get on down

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  1. he invented funk. a nice reminder that i need to dust off the godfather. my old cd's, not his corpse. which i think may still be on ice somewhere in the south, as his family was fighting over it for awhile...

  2. Daisyfae, thanks for reminding me about the squabble over the Godfather's body. I remember thinking he'd be thrilled to know they still wanted a piece of him - even after he was dead. And then there was that great mug shot the cops got of him when he was arrested aged 70 for domestic violence. Good times.