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“The Amazing James Brown” (1961) Reviewed

It is 1961 and James Brown is 28 years old and is getting there, he is arriving. The Amazing James Brown is his first, undeniably album and by that I mean sessions for songs that James wrote, sang, and produced, compiled it one album and released as a piece.

The Amazing isn’t the Brown album of your dreams (Live At The Apollo was two years away) but it wasn’t same old, same old, with the sort of ballads that keep you in mind of “It’s A Man’s Man’s World” and work outs on dance grooves that opened the door to his 1970s of pure groove and that lead us to hip hop of course. Released in the Spring of 1961 on King Record, it felt like the opening of Brown the pop artist as well as soul stirring funk master.

“Night Train” we know and it remains in tact, a considered soulfulness which isn’t on the one but is getting there. The ballads, the full blown “Lost Someone” -a minor masterpiece with Brown using his falsetto and “I Love You Yes I Do” -a little vacuous but not bad doo wop, the surfer guitar that underpins “And I Do Just What I Want” with a heavy bass that promises a tomorrow, but we haven’t rid ourselves of melody quite yet. “Just You And Me Darling” is both a cliche and axiom of pure r&b with a capella back ups and James screaming with a pure force.

It feels as though Brown is circling his genius. He is waiting on another part to the puzzle and he would have it within two years but it hasn’t arrived yet though he has the band, his touring outfit, in pocket, and the tightness is undeniable, even if later he would have blown “And I Do Just what I Want” to the skies, here he holds back…. but not by much.

Grade: A-

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