For the ten years leading up to 1972, the James Brown Revue was an outright superfunk freight train, speeding around the world and crushing all competition. This dominance stretched beyond the charts, too – the group was even more dynamic and exciting on stage, a fact that kept them sleepless and on the move, as audiences demanded more.
From 1963 to 1971, James Brown had released not one but three albums recorded live at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater. The first volume of the series is still rightfully revered today as one of the greatest live albums of all time. But Volumes II (1968) and III (1971 – aka Revolution Of The Mind) were no slackers either, showing James and his incredible band (with talent including Fred Wesley, John “Jabo” Starks, Clyde Stubblefield, Maceo Parker, Lyn Collins, Bobby Byrd) at the peak of their respective powers each time, playing a litany of JB hits.
Because of this, it will always be a mystery as to why Volume IV – which was recorded at the Apollo on September 13 & 14, 1972 – was shelved. This disbelief is in no small part because the performers and songs heard here are some of the Godfather of Soul’s (and the JBs’) strongest. But shelved it was, full of fire but languishing for decades in the Polydor and Universal vaults.
Thankfully we can now put that behind us, with the first-time-ever-on-vinyl release of this incredible concert, from more than four decades ago.
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One look at the tracklist (see below) will make you salivate: from instrumental JBs classics like “Pass the Peas,” “Gimme Some More” and “Hot Pants Road” to James’ own 1972 smash vocal “There It Is,” the assembled group of musical geniuses – including trombonist and bandleader Fred Wesley; saxophonist St. Clair Pinckney; guitarists Hearlon “Cheese” Martin and Jimmy “Chank” Nolan; drummer John “Jabo” Starks; bassist Fred Thomas; and Brown himself on organ – smash through James’ New New Super Heavy Funk with ridiculous power, control and panache. Included here, beyond the music, are in-between song introductions and banter, which bring you into the front row.
This live album stands apart among other live James Brown offerings because it was conceptualized to showcase James Brown’s favorite players –The JBs – and vocalists, Bobby Byrd and Lyn Collins, who by 1972 each had their own R & B smashes on Brown’s People label. These supreme talents get plenty of space to shine here: Collins’ stunning covers of Isaac Hayes’ “Do Your Thing” and the Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There,”alongside her own smash “Think (About It)”; and Byrd’s “Keep On Doin’ (What You’re Doin’),” with “I Know You Got Soul” simply levitate the bandstand.
This amazing platter is a clear reminder that James Brown was as much of a talent scout as he was a more-than-legendary performer. And while other “Live At The Apollo” releases focused on his own incredible music, here he gives the stage to the musicians that brought his work to life and kept his legend going for decades.
2. The J.B.’s – Hot Pants Road [3:04]
3. The J.B.’s – From The Back Side [4:34]
4. The J.B.’s – Wine Spot [3:14]
5. Introduction Of James Brown by Fred Wesley [:18]
6. James Brown – Never Can Say Goodbye [8:26]
7. The J.B.’s – Pass The Peas [6:24]
8. The J.B.’s – Honky Tonk [4:03]
9. Introduction By James Brown [:42]
10. The J.B.’s – Gimme Some More [3:13]
11. James Brown – There It Is [3:01]
12. Introduction Of Lyn Collins by Danny Ray [:26]
13. Lyn Collins – Do Your Thing [3:50]
14. Lyn Collins – Think (About It) [7:26]
15. Lyn Collins – I’ll Take You There [2:57]
16. Introduction Of Bobby Byrd by Danny Ray [:26]
17. Bobby Byrd – I Know You Got Soul [2:54]
18. Bobby Byrd – (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right [4:03]
19. Bobby Byrd – Keep On Doin’ What You’re Doin’ [8:51]