JAMES BROWN: Live At The Garden: Expanded Edition (Label: Hip-O Select)

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JAMES BROWN: Live At The Garden: Expanded Edition

The late Godfather of Soul was responsible for one of the greatest live albums of all time when he unleashed the seminal ‘Live At The Apollo’ for King Records in 1963. It was a record that truly captured the magic and explosive dynamism of Brown’s stage show at that time and succeeded in catapulting him to national stardom in the States. ‘Mr. Dynamite’ released a second live album recorded at Harlem’s legendary Apollo theatre in 1968, which demonstrated how much his sound and style had evolved in a five-year period. It, too, was hailed a classic. Sadly, though, Brown’s two ‘Live At The Apollo’ LPs have overshadowed other excellent live albums that the Georgia-singer made during his long career. One that has been neglected more than most is ‘Live At The Garden,’ which despite its deceptive title, captured Brown performing live at the Latin Casino in New Jersey in January 1967. Although it sold well at the time – and made # 5 in the US R&B albums chart – it was eclipsed by the appearance of ‘Live At The Apollo’ a year later and ended up being forgotten, even by some of Brown’s staunchest fans. With the advent of this reissue, JB devotees have a chance to judge for themselves how good – or bad – this album is. The cover, certainly, is enough to put any prospective buyer off: an awful cartoon-style painting devised by King’s owner, the irascible Syd Nathan (with whom Brown had a fiery relationship). However, the music is another matter – even though Brown’s original two-hour show was severely edited and whittled down to 40 minutes for the LP (and even had extra applause added for dramatic effect), it’s a humdinger of a concert featuring ‘Out Of Sight,’ ‘I Got You (I Feel Good),’ ‘Ain’t That A Groove’ and the cape-throwing, crowd-pleasing finale number, ‘Please Please Please.’ But what makes this expanded 2-disc set so alluring is the presence of the complete concert as it actually unfolded, so you get to hear Brown’s incredible band – with Pee Wee Ellis at the helm for the first time – warm up on numbers like ‘Wade In The Water’ and the organ-led ‘Devil’s Den’ before going into the famous ‘Star Time’ part of the show. Several numbers were dropped completely for the LP, including ‘It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World,’ ‘Papa’s Got A Band New Bag’ (which only appeared as an instrumental segment called ‘Hip Bag ’67’) and the jazz standard ‘Come Rain Or Shine’ (JB, who had focused his sights on Vegas, included this in his set at this time to try and win over the urbane supper club crowd). Interestingly, the version of a brand new Brown song, ‘Let Yourself Go,’ which appeared on the original ‘Live At The Garden’ LP wasn’t actually recorded live as part of Brown’s show – it was cut after the gig at the venue and then had audience reaction overdubbed in the studio. As a bonus, there are three studio takes of ‘Let Yourself Go’ appended to the end of the full Latin Casino concert. This combined with Alan Leeds’ authoritative and illuminating liner notes results in a reissue to savour. Super dynamite funk and soul indeed!
(CW) 4/5