The Bottom Line
- For James Brown completists, which is a demanding hobby, this is a digital godsend.
- No expense has been spared on the remastering or the packaging.
- If they're willing to make the effort, casual James fans can get a clearer portrait of the artist.
- Not all of this stuff bears repeated listens, especially since it repeats itself so often.
- Release date: April 1, 2008
- Hip-o Select 001041102
- Studio (1967-1969)
- Two-disc set
- Limited edition
Guide Review - James Brown: The Singles Volume 5: 1967-1969
What makes Volume Five (only 5000 copies, so get one now) so intriguing has to do with the era in question: while Butane James and his Famous Flames were splitting the funk atom -- as they'd learned to do with 1967's "Cold Sweat," recorded just before this material -- the world was learning how to deal with its own upheaval. This is, after all, the man who embraced both the black-power movement and Richard Nixon, and you can hear him grappling with his split decision on tracks like "Say It Loud -- I'm Black and I'm Proud," "America Is My Home," "You Got To Have A Job (If You Don't Work You Can't Eat)," and even "Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto."
More interesting still, however, is his musical schizophrenia -- even if funk was clearly the future, Brown seems perfectly at home doing straight covers of the musical standard "If I Ruled The World," string-laden R&B like "I Guess I'll Have To Cry, Cry, Cry," and endless instrumentals like "The Soul Of J.B.," "Maybe Good Maybe Bad," and "Here I Go." Most of it works, with the possible exception of "Tit For Tat (Ain't No Taking Back)," which sounds like it's aimed squarely at white teen hipsters. And there are relatively few hidden gems; the best of this stuff hit he R&B charts in its day. But there's just so much James to go around that you still probably haven't heard "Soul Pride" or "Goodbye My Love." And his most creative, "Popcorn"-laden funk phase was (and therefore is) still to come.