JAMES BROWN: ‘The Singles Volume 6: 1969-1970’ (Label: Hip-O Select)

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JAMES BROWN: 'The Singles Volume 6: 1969-1970'

Chart-wise, in 1969 James Brown was definitely on the good foot – he racked up ten hit singles on Billboard’s R&B chart and claimed pole position on two occasions. The first of his 1969 chart toppers, the seismic ‘Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose,’ appeared on the fifth instalment of Hip-O Select’s superlative series devoted to chronicling the Godfather’s prodigious catalogue of 45s. His second number one from the year that man first landed on the moon is ‘Mother Popcorn,’ one of many outstanding cuts on this sixth volume of the late Mr. Dynamite’s singles, which spans the period March 1969 to June 1970 and features 39 songs spread across two CDs. The collection kicks off with three previously unissued tracks – two canned versions of the wildly funky ‘You Got To Have A Mother For Me’ (a stylistic precursor for ‘Mother Popcorn’) and also ‘The Little Groove Maker Me,’ which is a re-titled shorter version of the incendiary, funk classic ‘There Was A Time.’ If it’s funk you want, then this is the mother lode, exemplified by ‘I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door, I’ll Get It Myself),’ ‘The Popcorn,’ ‘Let A Man Come In & Do The Popcorn,’ ‘Ain’t It Funky Now,’ ‘The Brother Got To Rap’ – which is an early, unreleased version of the tune that became ‘Brother Rapp’ – and ‘Talkin’ Loud And Sayin’ Nothin’.’ At the same time JB was pushing the funk envelope and exploring new sonic vistas in 1969, he was also trying to break into the Las Vegas show room scene and maintain his profile as an R&B and pop balladeer. And there are some fine examples of JB balladry on this set – powerful renditions of ‘Georgia On My Mind,’ ‘I Love You,’ ‘Maybe I’ll Understand,’ ‘Sometime’ and ‘Bewildered.’ Another 45 from 1969, ‘World’ – a largely overlooked track in the JB canon – is an interesting synthesis of ballad and funk styles with a glossy arrangement by H.B. Barnum (apparently it featured LA session musicians rather than Brown’s own band and prompted the departure of Brown’s then music director, Alfred ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis). Other highlights on this set include the instrumentals ‘Top Of The Stack,’ ‘The Chicken’ and ‘Funky Drummer,’ the latter a record that failed to set the charts alight on its release but which ironically became the most sampled of James Brown’s records and provided an important component of hip-hop’s DNA. Informative and copious liner notes by Alan Leeds – a former tour manager for the Godfather – contextualise the music. Super dynamite soul and funk in abundance. Roll on volume seven!
(CW) 4/5