Saturday, December 30, 2006

Tribute to the Godfather: The Last Time

James Brown - Maybe the Last Time

James Brown's public memorial is underway in Augusta, Georgia as I write this. I wish I could be there to pay my respects, but I have a child in tow today, flying solo, so the trip to Augusta was really out of the question. I'm sure many people join me in being there "in spirit."

Today's selection seems appropriate for today's events. In 1964 JB, who was having a tough time with King Records prexy Syd Nathan (having clashed over the Live at the Apollo LP and some other projects), violated his contract and started putting out material on Mercury's Smash label. Nathan flexed his muscle and coerced Brown to toe the line with King, but Smash was allowed to release instrumental material by James and the band for a little while (I think the last Smash recordings came out in '66 or '67). The lone JB vocal 45 on Smash was "Out of Sight" b/w "Maybe the Last Time." "Out of Sight" was the first hint of the new sound JB was about to drop with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," and is a fine piece of R&B. "Maybe the Last Time," however, is a fantastic record that deserved more than to be a B-side. The tune was based on the gospel tune made popular by the Staple Singers (the Rolling Stones would also turn to the tune around that time). James and the Famous Flames give the song a very strong reading, and James conjures up his gospel idol, the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi's Archie Brownlee, in his performance.

The tribute to JB will continue into next week, but today I pause to remember the legend as I sit here, so close but yet so far away from Augusta.

1 comment:

Rob Whatman said...

I've been on holiday in France since christmas eve, and had no idea what had happened until a friend mentioned it in passing when I got back today. I am doing a tour of the wonderful tributes that people have dedicated to JB now.