It's not easy being a James Brown fan. Currently, many of his original studio albums are so rare on CD that they are almost impossible to find, and instead of making them widely available, record companies force fans to buy armfuls of compilations by including small helpings of rare material on each one. However, the glut of compilations on the market at least make it easy for new fans to make their first purchase, and despite the disorganised back catalogue, further purchases are essential. Why? Because James Brown is the most influential artist of the 20th century, BAR NONE. Here's a quick history lesson: He invented funk, which evolved into disco, hip-hop, modern R&B, techno, house, trance, and every other form of contemporary dance music. They all trace back to The Godfather. Without him, Prince and Michael Jackson would sound unrecognisable. Oh, and he is also the most sampled artist of all time, providing countless new artists with pop, hip-hop and R&B hits over the last 30 years.
So, you need a place to start. Of the many compilations on the market, this is one of the best. Most of the songs you would expect to be here are present, plus the 80's hits 'Living In America', 'I'm Real' and even the rare medley single 'The Payback Mix', all of which many other collections leave out. The funk gets the most attention (as it should), but you get a taste of his early soul material as well. There will always be great songs missing (like 'The Payback' or 'Try Me'), but there's no point dwelling on that. After this, the best place to go is the 4 CD box set 'Star Time', which takes you on a trip from 1956-1984. It skimps on the late 70's cuts, but the 2 CD set 'Dead On The Heavy Funk: 1975-1983' does a great job of filling in the gaps. Post-'84, 'Gravity' and 'I'm Real' are his two best albums. For live recordings, the 'Live At The Apollo' volumes are his most famous, but 'Love Power Peace' from 1971 is arguably his definitive performance.
Hopefully, by the time you've added those to your collection, Brown's back catalogue will be re-sorted and re-released for us all to enjoy. Until then, Soul Brother!