Sunday, May 3, 2009

May 3: James Brown, "Revolution Of The Mind"

Artist: James Brown
Album: Revolution Of The Mind
Year: 1971
Label: Polydor

In 1971, there was one band who were so far ahead of the rest of music, one could easily make the case that they were the most dangerously talented band in the world. The lineup reads like a "who's who" of the greatest musicians of all time. At the front of the band is easily one of the most famous and hard working men ever to stand in front of a microphone. Subtitled Live At The Apollo Volume III, James Brown's 1971 release, Revolution Of The Mind captures him and his band at the height of their talents, and is undoubtedly one of the greatest live recordings in history.

Having already scored more than a dozen hit singles, and two previous Live At The Apollo recordings, James Brown was well beyond an international superstar by the time he hit the Apollo stage for this recording. The audience is treated to a smattering of the Brown's best singles, including "(I Feel Like A) Sex Machine," "Super Bad" and a personal favorite of Brown, "Hot Pants." One of the most interesting aspects of Revolution Of The Mind is the crowd. As Henry Rollins once noted, "...the audience seems to be all's like "wall of pheromonal adoration..." The observation is absolutely correct, with every "huh!" and "ha!" that Brown emits, the crowd goes absolutely berserk. The band, under the direction of legendary horn player Fred Wesley, is a well honed unit on the record, and they follow and predict every move that Brown makes. The recording is perfect, and aside from a few points where the guitar falls a bit behind in the mix, each instrument is perfectly balanced, and you get a true "live" experience.

At this point in their career, it is almost cliché to call James Brown's band, The JB's, "hot" or "amazing." By 1971, they are such a well polished machine that the music they create as a group is nothing short of awe-inspiring. With Fred Wesley leading on trombone, Russell Crimes on trumpet, and the pairing of Jimmy Parker and St. Clair Pickney on sax, the horns are among the best ever assembled. Each player gets a chance to solo at one point or another on the recording, and each play with such mastery and precision, that it is clear that The JB's have all the necessary talent to back "The Godfather Of Soul." Hearlon "Cheese" Martin lays down some of the smoothest, funkiest guitar riffs ever, often as the only instrument playing. The legendary Bobby Byrd handles organ duty, and he steals the spotlight throughout the record. Drummers John Starks and John Morgan seems to have the longest endurance of any drummers ever, as they keeps the funky beat going for nearly twelve minutes at one point.

James Brown and The JB's present the entire latitude of their musical brilliance throughout Revolution Of The Mind, from their fast paced, funky classics, to slower, more soulful numbers like, "Try Me." When singing throughout Revolution Of The Mind, Brown's voice is perfectly gritty, and he truly sounds as good as he did at any point in his career. From his structured lyrics to his trademark high-pitched screams, Brown performs brilliantly throughout, proving why he was worthy of the title, "Hardest Working Man In Show Business." Brown spends many points on the record directly interacting with the crowd, from alterations in his lyrics to direct "raps" to members of the audience. Commenting countless times on his love for hot pants, Brown tosses some brilliant one liners, much to the screaming enjoyment of the audience. Overall, the dynamic and interactive concert that James Brown delivers on Revolution Of The Mind serves as clear evidence as to why he will always be revered as one of the greatest performers in music history.

It goes without saying that James Brown is the definition of a musical icon and legend. Easily one of the most electric and prolific performers in history, one would be hard pressed to find any musician who hasn't been influenced in some way by his recordings. Brown's backing band, The JB's featured some of the most talented and influential musicians in history. Artists like Bootsy Collins, Fred Wesley, and Maceo Parker all backed Brown at one point or another. In 1971, group membership had drastically changed, and Wesley became the director of all of the musicians. By the time they hit the Apollo to record Revolution Of The Mind, the band was so together that they were one of the most unstoppable forces in music history. Every note, every solo, every "button" is absolutely perfect, and it is beautifully capped off my the spectacular performance of Mr. Please-Please-Please himself, James Brown. Brown's studio catelog is nothing short of phenomenal, but if you wish to experience the true measure of the man, find a copy of 1971's Revolution Of The Mind, it is truly one of the finest live recordings ever.

Standout tracks: "Escap-ISM," "Give It Up Or Turnit Loose," and "Hot Pants (She Got To Use What She Got To Get What She Wants)"

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