2:11 p.m. - February 10, 2006
Liz had to attend the local school board meeting last night as part of her duties with the League of Women Voters (Ms. Civic Minded may be the treasurer next year) so I got to put the kids to bed.
In order to make sure they were ready for bed, I put Kristin in her ‘mothership’, got my iPod and my iTrip, turned it on, turned on the home stereo, and started dancing with Katie.
We boogied to the latest playlists, including an epic version of “Little Johnny Jewel” by Television (didn’t think you could dance to it, did you?). Of course, the bay window was open, and I’m sure the drivers on Market Street were bemused by a 40-year old man jumping around like a loony.
Then a James Brown song came on, and I started to sing it. Katie said, “Stop it daddy!” Sigh.
But it got me to thinking (well, almost anything gets me to thinking, as you faithful readers have found out over the months) about James Brown, and how many people may know James Brown but not KNOW James Brown, dig?
I think he’s released about 34,192 albums in his career, plus compilations. But the master stroke, as far as I’m concerned, is his Star Time box set. It’s got almost everything you need (except for “Living In America”, easily found on iTunes) from James Brown, and more.
Sure, everyone knows “Cold Sweat”, “I Got You (I Feel Good)”, “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag”, and perhaps even “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine”. But the man has released about 210,726 songs, in multiple parts, no less. So here are 10 James Brown songs you may not know, but will be glad you did. Maceo….
(Note, there is an absence of James Browns’ torchy ballads here – he could really belt those as well, but I’m all about the funkmeister James Brown, at least today).
10. Money Won’t Change You – The horns beckon you in, and a funky organ riff under the horns and bass line enthrall you. The groove is simple, yet insistent. This is one of his first socially-conscious songs, and it was a minor pop hit, hitting #53 in 1966.
9. Think – This is an early 60’s corker from James Brown and his first pop top 40 hit (#33 in 1960). The elements are all there for James Brown, a sweet little groove and great horn work, along with an impeccable sense of timing from Brown himself. He either really liked this song a lot, or was never satisfied with it, as he hit the charts with it THREE more times (once as a duet and then twice in 1973 with two different versions).
8. Licking Stick – Licking Stick – A great bass line, a funky shuffling drum pattern and typical soul guitar and then the immortal lyrics, “Momma come here quick, and bring me that licking stick.” WHAT? Oh, it’s about a kid seeing his sister dance and wanting candy. It’s got a lot of self-referential lyrics (“Sometimes she thinks she’s doing the James Brown!”), and is just a fun record. It hit #14 in 1968 on the pop chart and I’m sure everyone thought licking stick was SOMETHING ELSE entirely.
7. Super Bad – I thought about adding “Funky Drummer” because everyone knows that drum pattern, but this is also pretty well sampled yet no one may know what the source is. “Watch me! Watch me!” James Brown had fired his band, and found a bunch of youngsters in Cincinnati willing to play with him, including Catfish and Bootsy Collins. Oh, Bootsy is all over this one, baby! “Good God! Jump back, wanna kiss myself!” Whatever, James! This hit #13 in 1970, and both Part I and Part II were charted together. (Yes, if there’s something James Brown loved more than parenthetical titles, its multiple part singles!)
6. Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose – It starts with a yeeeow! Then there’s a funky little guitar scratching and a funky little bass line. It definitely feels like James and the band is just kind of doing this one off the cuff, and that’s fine by me. The modulation to the bridge is incredible (naturally). What does the song mean? Think about it, people! His manager, Charles Bobbitt, got a writing credit for this, and what exactly was written down, anyway? This hit #15 in 1969, meaning there were a lot of people who wanted to turn it loose.
5. I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door I’ll Get It Myself)- James Brown was a voice of strength and independence in the African American community. His concert in Boston around the time of Martin Luther King’s death is classic case of an entertainer using his power to control what could have been a dangerous situation. Of course, this has a dead on funky groove, and a great beat, but the words spoke to the African American community in 1969, and it rose to #20.
4. Hot Pants, Pt. 1 – And then there’s THIS part of James Brown. He’s trying to do for the women what he’s done for African American, and this is what he came up with. “She’s got use what she’s got to get what she wants”. Smokin those things! Good God! And what she’s got are HOT PANTS! Uuuuh! In 1971, everyone wanted enough Hot Pants to take this to #15. You may cringe a bit at the words, but man the groove is solid, Jackson, just solid.
3. Get On The Good Foot - A stone cold dance classic, it’s got a classic horn riff and ultra cool, yet simple, drumming, and a cool bass solo. This is one of his rare ‘gold records’ – of course he put out about 15 singles a year, so there wasn’t a lot of time to ‘age’ these songs on the chart. The word is that he introduced this song to America by playing it on his own radio station in Georgia, and then later rush-released it. It hit #18 in 1972, and everyone was on the good foot.
2. Doing It To Death – This is another one of those “off the cuff” singles. James Brown walks in, talks to his band as they start a groove, and off they go! Did James even take his coat off before he started the track? No mind, the groove they come up with is incredible, so you don’t really care he’s just makin’ stuff up as he goes. It’s especially tasty when they change keys on the fly, to D, of all things. Those who saw the movie “When We Were Kings” about the Ali / Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle” will notice that this is the song that James Brown was playing on stage. Officially, the release was by “Fred Wesley and the JB’s” as it was Fred and his horn that starred in the track. And Maceo finally arrives, too late for Part 1.
1. 1. Get It Together – Now this, THIS, is the ultimate James Brown song. Why? It starts with a scream. It has a great horn riff, a great guitar part, a funky bass line and great drumming. James does his ‘uhs’ to great effect. But what makes this great is the fact that after a while, James just starts to direct the band instead of singing the song, calling for Maceo!, of course, then telling the horns to lay out then he wants them to hit him ONE TIME (Do you hear me? UH! Good God!), asking then for TWO TIMES, THREE TIMES, and FOUR – then scolding Maceo for ‘playing too much.’ He then calls in all of the horns separately, except for Pee Wee, whose horn is ‘too big’. “He’s got too much horn over there!” Then they ease out of it, except for Maceo, because the groove is there. Then there’s the whole HIT IT and QUIT IT, and then he comments about Wayman’s bad night. And the song keeps going and going, for almost nine minutes, and by the time the song is over James has told the engineer to fade it on out, as he’s going home. HEH!
Well, there you go, ten funky groove hits from the man himself, Mr. James Brown. Smokin’ that thing – good God!
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