At a time when James Brown's career was in commercial and artistic eclipse, when his entire 1960s catalog was out of print in the U.S., and when his work had been anthologized only in the inconsistent Soul Classics series, Polydor U.K. assembled the ideal two-LP hits compilation covering the first two decades of his work, from 1956's "Please, Please, Please" to 1976's "Get up Offa That Thing." "30 Golden Hits," proclaimed the cover, "21 Golden Years." On the inside of the foldout cover, Polydor listed the release dates and (U.S.) chart figures for each song, along with an essay by Cliff White. As a result, Solid Gold stood not only as a model for the many Brown compilations that would follow in later years, but also for the compilation boom in general; it was thorough, respectful, and focused. Like the best compilations, it forced a reassessment of its subject by concentrating on his best work and following it through the years. If there was ever any doubt that James Brown was the major figure of R&B in the '60s, it was erased here. At the same time, of course, by implication it closed the door on Brown as an innovator: Cliff White looked forward to 1998, when another 21 years in Brown's career would have gone by, but the appearance of this set was an acknowledgement that Brown's real accomplishments were behind him. Solid Gold finally was released in the U.S., on CD, in 1986. It has since been superseded by the 1991 four-disc Star Time boxed set, but it nevertheless stands as a state-of-the-art compilation for its time, and if you want the essence of James Brown, it's here.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann