James Brown

Live at Home with His Bad Self

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Live at Home with His Bad Self Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Live at Home with His Bad Self is the first-ever release of the complete homecoming concert James Brown held at Augusta, Georgia's Bell Auditorium on October 1, 1969. The performance was intended as a live album for that holiday season, but those plans were scrapped once his band walked out on him. Roughly a year later, the Sex Machine double album arrived bearing some of the recordings from this concert. The full show didn't materialize until 2019, when the album was released for its would-be 50th anniversary. Considering how so many members of Brown's band left in the months that followed, the concert turned out to be as valedictory as it was victorious; this was the last time Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker, Jimmy Nolen, Sweet Charles Sherrell, and Clyde Stubblefield shared the stage with Soul Brother Number One. The great thing about Live at Home with His Bad Self is that it carries no air of being a major statement: Brown simply whipped the group into shape to deliver a show that he could be proud to deliver to a hometown crowd. The performance contains a few period oddities -- the J.B.'s jamming to Blood Sweat & Tears' "Spinning Wheel" fares a little bit better than James crooning through the show tune "If I Ruled the World," and both are better than Brown performing to a pre-recorded track for "World" -- but complaining about these cuts amounts to nitpicking. Every cut, including the old-fashioned numbers, finds James Brown and the J.B.'s in prime shape, tearing through their hits and extending "There Was a Time," "Lowdown Popcorn," and "Mother Popcorn" to the point that they're about to burst. As a sheer performance, it's giddy and intoxicating, but it's also a useful document of one of Brown's best bands at their live peak.

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