Thursday, May 10, 2012

James Brown says it LOUD part 2: More KING ragers

This is the second post in our series spotlighting the the most manic, crazy James Brown sides out there, the ones that sacrifice either traditional rhythm and blues structures OR the repetitive patterns that became funk for sheer rhythmic excitement and agitation. We're calling them James Brown's Rock and Roll for now, but I can't shake the feeling that's not quite right.

First up is another Roy Brown cut - "Love Don't Love Nobody", the b-side to "I Don't Mind" (which, let's just take a moment to note, is further proof that James Brown 45s are the best 45s of all the 45s). On the Messin' with the Blues double CD there's a fascinating false start where you can actually hear King owner Syd Nathan crabbing to the engineer about JB's performance. "Needs more melody" he grumps, and "Don't sing so HARD", he mutters. Aside from being a hilarious example of Brown and Nathan's contentious relationship, it's interesting that the things Brown was going for in this and later recordings (de-emphasized melody, the hardest of all singing) are exactly the things Nathan discourages here.

sorry about the ridiculous graphics on this youtube

The hard singing, lack of melody, and tendency towards rhythmic chaos is also present on 1960's "And I Do Just Want I Want".  Like "Love Don't Love", the primary instrument up top is a wandering guitar riff, but this time Les Buie plays it on the lower strings, giving it a bassier drive. It's an even more spare arrangement, too - a single sax wails a weird atonal figure around a shuffling drumbeat while Brown parties it up philosophic like.  


In 1962, JB released "I've Got Money (Now I Need Love)". He'd produced a more traditional version of this song for Baby Lloyd in 1960, but his own version is much farther out there, with what's been called the first funk drum beat and a manic horn chart that gives him the chance to sing as hard as he could possibly want. 

Tell the truth, Snaggle Tooth!

With their virtual abandonment of melody and a typical song structure, this stuff is as wild and raw as music gets.  In fact, I think the only one term we can use to commodify these tracks:  let's call it Free James Brown.  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

James Brown says it loud: Chonnie on Chon & I Feel That Old Feeling

It's difficult to say much original about an artist as revered and well documented as JB, but maybe we can reshuffle some old elements and come up with something "new", that in and of itself being a classic James Brown technique.

In addition to James Brown the soul man and James Brown the minister of the new new super heavy funk, James Brown the balladeer and James Brown the smooth jazz organist, James Brown the pop crooner and James Brown the spoken word poet, all of whom I'm sure will show up here in one form or another over the course of the month, there's also James Brown, maker of a totally crazy loud racket, or, until something better comes along, James Brown: Rock and Roller.

Brown got a lot of his impulse to sheer frantic rhythmic excitement from Little Richard (he also got his hair, his first manager, and one of his first bands from Little Richard) so it's only fitting that we start pursuing this vein in the Brown mines with this crazed melding of Little Richard and Roy Brown from 1956, "Chonnie-On-Chon".

Near as I can tell, "Chonnie-On-Chon" is supposed to be roughly the equivalent of "Bama-Lama-Bama-Lou" or "Whop Bop a Lu Bop a Whop Bam Boom", while the verses of the song recall the events of "Good Rockin' Tonight".  

Soul Brother #1's soul brother number one, Bobby Byrd, georgia peaches the keys.

And speaking of way out takes on Brown's influences, his very first session for Federal produced this spectacularly wild version of Wynonie Harris's "I Feel That Old Age Coming On".  The title is tweaked to better reflect the fact that James was disinclined to feel old age (because that would require getting tired).  But, really, the song should have almost been called "I, James Brown" because in his wild shrieks at the beginning of each verse he announces his unprecedented ego to the world by shrieking "I . . . I . . I  . . . I-I-I-I" over and over again.  He's so far gone by the end of the song that he forgets to say "I feel that old feeling coming on" at the end of the song and reverts back to the original lyric.  

Second link from ike ike ike ike ikedyson71's indispensable all JB youtube channel