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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's James so it's good, 8 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Make It Funky/The Big Payback: 1971-1975 (MP3 Download)
As the '70s arrived James Brown was undergoing something of a personnel crisis. His original backing band had walked out on him in early 1970 and the replacements,who became the original JB's and who included Bootsie Collins and his brother Phelps, would only last until March 1971. It was in that year, however, that James Brown recorded some of his most memorable material, including "Sex Machine" and estalblished Funk as a musical genre.

As the "Bootsie" period wound down, Brown had brought back into the fold Fred Wesley, which must rank as one o his better decisions because with Wesley he was able to sustain the quality of his output and enjoy success until the mid '70's. and this set neatly covers that period. And what music they created together as Wesley's musical arrangements were allied to Brown's "on the hoof" changes over the groove laid down by Wesley on trombone, St Clair Pinckney on sax and Jabo Starks on drums.

This isn't necsesarily the best of that period but it's close. Brown's danceable output dominates side one, and really if you can sit still while listening to this, then there's no hope for you!! Social commentary, which featured large in Brown's output in this period, is represented by King Heroin, which also shows he could slow it down to good effect, and some more straight soul in Down and Out in New York City. The latter is the only song here from the Black Ceasar sooundtrack, with an intro that wasn't on the album, but featured on the single mix.

By side two, we are on to 3 tracks from the giant "Payback" album, only one of which, the title track, features in full. That's a shame because the full 12 minute version of "Stone to the Bone" is superb. Still I suppose they had to leave room for another masterpiece in it's full glory - the insidious mid tempo funk of "Papa don't Take No Mess" which ranks as my favourite JB track. That and 3 other tracks here come from the "Hell" album, and that album would be the last really succesful JB album, as the onset of Disco began to leave his gritty Funk out in the cold. After that it would be only sporadic success with "Funky President" an example featured on this set.

So this set summarises neatly the (first) decline of James Brown, from his peak at the turn of the decade to increasing marginalisation by 1976. Regardless, he created a genre almost single handedly, influencing not only hios contempoaries but generations to come. He was a giant, and if this set has whetted your appetite, there's a vast catalogue of his recordings for you to explore - enjoy
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