From the Vault...


James Brown
"Black Caesar"

© Polydor Records

Year of Release: 1973

track listing
  • Down And Out In New York City
  • Blind Man Can See It
  • Sportin' Life
  • Dirty Harri
  • The Boss
  • Make It Good To Yourself
  • Mama Feelgood
    (Lyn Collins)
  • Mama's Dead
  • White Lightning
    (I Mean Moonshine)
  • Chase
  • Like It Is Like It Was

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    James Brown
    "Black Caesar"

    James Brown--The Godfather of Soul... James Brown helped paved the way for future musical styles, such as soul, funk, and rap. In each of his songs, you can't help to imitate his quick yells and screams; they are so unique. Eddie Murphy did an imitation of the Godfather on his Comedian album, featuring those quick screams and yells -- Ha! Ze-be-da-ba! Ha! Hey! I Feel Good! Baby, baby baby... Eddie Murphy did another imitation in the movie 48 Hours. In either case, James Brown is a major influence to anyone, who is inspired by music.

    In the 1970s, many movies consisting of black-related issues were a major force. Movies like Isaac Hayes' Shaft, Curtis Mayfield's Superfly were hits in the movie theatres, as these movies were specifically written for black people. Today, these movies are known as cult status films. James Brown participated in such a movie, entitled Black Caesar, in 1973.

    Of the 11 songs featured on this album, James Brown spotlights his vocal talents on 5 tracks. The first opens the album, Down And Out In New York City, a hit song that takes my memory back to one of those K-Tel-based various artists albums, Ronco's Good Vibrations. The remaining tracks are instrumental, with the exception of Mama Feelgood, sung by female vocalist Lyn Collins. Some of the instrumental tunes feature piano/organ keyboards. What some people may not know about James Brown, is that he is a very accomplished keyboardist. Overall, the instrumentals in this album feature the Shaft-like style of black-oriented soul/funk tunes with horns, and the results are considered true black funk. Blind Man Can See It is true classic funk, featuring piano licks keeping the funk pace. Sportin' Life and White Lightning (I Mean Moonshine) are other funky tunes in that same mold.

    What stands out in this album are the songs vocalized by James Brown. Listening to him is quite a treat, and an enjoyable event. Sure, the songs follow the tradition as such JB classics as Get Off Of That Thing, and Sex Machine. Tracks such as The Boss tells such a story like Isaac Hayes' Shaft: The Boss can be a bad, mother .... Make It Good To Yourself starts out with the famous scream heard in Sex Machine, and, like Sex Machine, it's just as funky. Mama's Dead is a slow, sweet-soul ballad, which is exceptionally well, as only JB can do it.

    The instrumentals defines the definition of black music's soul and funk. One instrumental, (despite being short in length) is Dirty Harri. It's rich, full keyboard organ sound reminds me of the soulness of Booker T. & The MG's. (A band that included guitarist Steve Cropper and bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn; who would later join The Blues Brothers Band.)

    Even though most James Brown albums are known for his vocals, this album is half vocals, half instrumental. Still, it's James Brown. It defines what James Brown is best known for: Soulful and Funky. It may not stand out as well as his other albums, this one being a movie soundtrack. In most cases, soundtrack albums throw in a lot of different musical styles, both vocal and instrumental. There are different styles here, in the form of soul and funk. As much as the JB vocal tracks stands out, the instrumentals are the ones that somewhat throws the listener off at times. These instrumentals are all unique in their own ways. After listening to this album, you wish that there was more. But to the JB fan, this album is fine. To define the TRUE James Brown, his box set, Star Time, defines the soul and funk that everyone will remember him by.

    James Brown is an inspiration to all races. His appearance as a gospel minister in the original Blues Brothers movie (which, by the way, he appears again in the sequel opening this week -- Blues Brothers 2000 February, 1998), makes you want to listen to more of his music, whether you're already familar with him, or experiencing him for the first time.

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