Seldom have a performer and a venue been more suited to each other than James Brown and the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Brown played over 600 shows on the Apollo stage when all was said and done, beginning in 1959 when he was the opening act for Little Willie John, ended up the headliner by the end of the run, and then returned every year through 1974, returning again when the Apollo reopened. In front of audiences that were frenzied and passionate, Brown's equally frenzied and passionate shows are the stuff of legend. A landmark album of vintage early Brown with his Famous Flames, Live at the Apollo, appeared in 1963 (the show documented was from October 24, 1962), followed by two more, Live at the Apollo, Vol. 2 (from shows on June 24 and 25, 1967, it was released in 1968) and Revolution of the Mind: Recorded Live at the Apollo, Vol. 3 (recorded between July 21 and 25, 1971, it was released that same year). This set honors the 50th anniversary of the release of that classic first live Apollo set by taking key tracks from all three of the Apollo releases and then tacking on a couple of tracks from the unreleased album Get Down at the Apollo with the J.B.'s, which was recorded at shows on September 13 and 14 in 1972. It's also sort of a live James Brown greatest-hits album, with powerful versions of "I'll Go Crazy," "Night Train," "Please, Please, Please," and "Sex Machine," among others. It's a dynamite sequence documenting an explosive performer in his prime on the exact right stage at the exact right time in front of the exact right audience. This, folks, is James Brown at the Apollo.
Best of Live at the Apollo: 50th Anniversary Review
by Steve Leggett