You never know what unexpected wonders you’ll find in Malaysian CD stores. In the last couple of years, for example, I’ve been re-introduced to the underrated discography of The Hollies through reissues which my local music store started carrying for some unknown but deeply appreciated reason.
Earlier this week, I came across a marked down copy of STAR TIME, James Brown’s box set. I owned a couple of Brown’s records in my late teens as they used to be readily available for a dollar or less at used record stores. I recalled them as being awesome but he often repeats some of the same songs. I had three different records that contained “Please, Please, Please” for example.
The music on STAR TIME is riveting. I’ve always considered Brown’s position in musical history to be similar to Elvis Presley only the music is 100 times better and he was also better for a much longer period of time. He was still making good music in the late 70’s. Robert Christgau once said “James Brown is a walking genre of music”.
Brown’s grunts, “Heyssss”, passionate exclamations, randomly shouted non sequiters are purely from the gut. Listening to James Brown’s music is a very visceral experience.
But oftentimes, Brown, despite his passion, his towering vocal stance, is not the star here. It’s the musicians and the arrangements. The drums are like robots with soul, perfect timekeeping but with feeling and tremendous rhythm and the guitars wow! Hypnotic is an understatement. They say James Brown invented funk and rap but that music has become lazier and lazier. James Brown’s music is tight as a spring and its tonality has more in common (and just as much influence) with REMAIN IN LIGHT and ENTERTAINMENT! as it does with THRILLER or AINT NOTHIN BUT A G THANG.