Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bellson, Nelson and Brown

James Brown - The Man in the Glass (Pt. 1)

I was inspired to do a James Brown post today after having seen a set of great JB videos on YouTube this weekend. One contributor has added some great stuff, including a medley of "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved" and "Soul Power," performed by James (in an awesome outfit, I must add) and Bobby Byrd on a soundstage, and a guest spot by James on "Dinah's Place," where James, backed by the show's house band (led by Fred Wesley), tears through "Get on the Good Foot." Get over to YouTube and do a search for this stuff; you'll be glad you did.

Today's selection was the fruit of the Soul on Top sessions, in which JB recorded a mix of standards, show tunes, a few new songs and remakes of some of his hits backed by jazz drummer Louis Bellson's big band, conducted by Oliver Nelson. Although the concept sounds somewhat baffling on paper, and the 1970 LP did not sell well at the time, the truth is that the material is actually very good. James' vocals are powerful, the song selection is strong and the band actually grooves nicely. Fortunately for soul fans, the LP has had a CD reissue on Verve. "The Man in the Glass," credited to Brown's long-time associate Bud Hobgood, was part of the album and a portion of an alternate version, which is featured here, was also included on Brown's 1970 LP It's a New Day So Let a Man Come In. "Man in the Glass" fits right in with tunes like "World" and "I'm Not Demanding" (which was also included on It's a New Day and was scheduled for two 45 releases, both of which were scrapped). On all three songs, Brown does some serious emoting about serious topics in dramatic arrangements that were unlike a lot of what JB was doing at the time. The "man in the mirror" lyrics of today's selection are powerful and even thought-provoking. Dig them!

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