James Brown

The Lost James Brown Tapes

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This is a one-hour videotaped performance by James Brown, circa 1979, though it was not released until 1991 due to what a package note calls "unfortunate business circumstances." It's a fairly low-budget affair, shot with three cameras and stage lighting, the lenses focused most of the time on Brown's face. He smiles, he grunts, he sweats prodigously, and he leads his band through a funky set in which only "Try Me" and "Georgia On My Mind" change the pace from dance tempo to ballad time. The box has a song list that doesn't do justice to the snatches of Brown favorites that turn up ("Cold Sweat" and "I Got You [I Feel Good]" are in there, unlisted), but then, song titles are only nominal in what is really an extended jam. "Sex Machine," for instance, begins with the lyrics of that song, but then rolls on for 20 minutes of improvised chants. Brown changes costume twice, and the band works just as hard, including an alto saxophonist who plays several solos. (Characteristic of the relatively skimpy production values, there are no musician credits.) This isn't Brown in his prime or at his best, but it is a typically spirited performance. When was the last time you saw a 50-year-old man do a leg split and come up smiling?