James Brown- Live at the Apollo
“Mr. Dynamite, The amazing Mr. Please Please himself, and the star of the show: James Brown and the Famous Flames!”
Performing is a drug. You step up, fall into a moment, and feel the vibrations fill you up. You are the moment, capable of any and everything. You feel it hit every single part of your body, and suddenly you’re more than yourself.
Capturing that in a live album is incredibly hit or miss. James Brown, however, was always better live, and the hardest working man in show business comes out to play on Live at the Apollo, 1962, an album he financed himself after the head of his label, King Records, declined to support it. Brown spoon-fed the crow with an astonishing 66 weeks on the Billboard album chart and sales in the millions.
The album captures the vitality of Brown at an early point in his career, when he’s standing at the crossroads of Motown, Blues, R&B, and Rock n’ Roll, shortly before the Beatles conquered the ‘60s. Brown’s enormous energy exudes throughout, with his wood-hewn voice sounding like the shavings are still attached. His backup band, The Famous Flames, hold down that sweet-sweet backend with lush horns, rug-cutting early ‘60s’ guitar, tingling jazz drums, and insatiable movement.
Performing is a drug. You step up, fall into a moment, and feel the vibrations fill you up.
When a live album is good, that’s what it does. It takes a candid picture of a moment, and preserves it in black-groove crystal. I can feel the excitement and sweat. I can smell the smoke. I can hear Brown’s body moving with the music and the crowd’s excitement at each gyration and tremolo.
It doesn’t even matter that it’s edited for consumption. It’s vital and throbbing like a heartbeat. It’s why I love singing. That’s when I feel that essential being that comes only when dripping yourself in melodies and letting music flow outward in a wave of sounds and feelings.
Because performance is the only drug that gets both you and the artist high.
Until you leave me, and I go crazy, love