James Brown's two-CD 40th Anniversary Collection gathered 40 of the soul-funk giant's biggest hits, and in keeping with its title, The 50th Anniversary Collection is just that little bit bigger and better, with (could you guess?) 50 of his most famous tracks. From 1956's "Please, Please, Please" to 1988's "Static, Pts. 1 & 2," it has almost all of his biggies, though the absence of the 1986 Top Five hit "Living in America" is puzzling indeed. But that's a minor quibble given the dozens of classics onboard, which taken as a whole not only represent the best Brown compilation on the market, but also make a plain case for the singer as one of the major talents of 20th century American music. It's not wholly redundant on the off-chance that you're willing to replace 40th Anniversary Collection, mopping up a few hits of note ("Bewildered," "Bring It Up," "Let Yourself Go," "I Can't Stand Myself [When You Touch Me], Pt. 1," "It's a New Day, Pt. 1," "The Popcorn") that didn't make the cut the previous time around. If you're keeping score, it does lose a couple minor goodies from 40th Anniversary Collection ("Money Won't Change You," "King Heroin"). Also, the '70s funk years might be given too much emphasis and his R&B-soul beginnings shortchanged, though there are plenty of other reissues of his '50s/'60s material out there if you want to investigate further. Want another minor quibble on what is nonetheless a superb anthology? 40th Anniversary Collection came out in 1996; The 50th Anniversary Collection came out in 2003. Now that's the sort of creative accounting only a marketing department could love. Didn't this anniversary come three years early, especially considering that Brown's recording debut was in 1956?
The 50th Anniversary Collection Review
by Richie Unterberger
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2
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