James Brown

Godfather of Soul

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A budget-line two-fer featuring two of James Brown's live performances from the 1980s, Goldenlane's Godfather of Soul release is as generic as its title, if not more so. The '80s weren't the best of times for Brown, and it doesn't help that the two live recordings here -- a CD titled "Live in New York (1980)" and a DVD titled "Live at Castain Park (1985)," both hourlong shows featuring essentially the same set list -- are totally uneventful. Granted, it's impressive that Brown was still out there performing in the '80s, which was his fourth decade on-stage. He's still energetic and full of life here, for sure. However, he's all show biz at this late point, performing many of his greatest hits with a faceless backing band that seems well rehearsed yet showcases little creative spark. To make matters worse, the live CD recording is edited so that the tracks fade in and out, and the DVD consists mainly of a single camera focused on Brown exclusively, with an occasional shot of the entire band. All of this leaves room for few surprises. In fact, the biggest surprise is liable to be how lackluster this two-disc package actually is -- not only is the musical and video content dull, the packaging is dull too, providing no context whatsoever for these latter-day recordings. This Goldenlane two-fer ultimately has little to no appeal. Not even collectors or completists will find much value here. After all, there's more than enough James Brown out there to feast your ears and eyes upon, and if indeed you're looking for live performances, you'll want to find ones that predate these by a good decade or so (the mid-'70s are a good marker for when Brown lost his edge, retreating downhill to the oldies circuit).

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