James Brown

The Original Disco Man

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This effort finds Brown staking claim to a genre that he was indisputably partially responsible for. But by the late '70s, Brown as an innovator of rhythm was having a difficult time getting hits. As singles like "The Spank" and "Take a Look at Those Cakes" failed to set the charts ablaze, Brown -- and probably his label -- felt some changes should be made. The Original Disco Man pairs him with Muscle Shoals producer Brad Shapiro and is one of those rare efforts that gets better with each play. Shapiro was one of the more in-demand producers with Jackie Moore, Millie Jackson, and Joe Simon among the most famous of his credits. But it took Brown to take his sound to another level. For this effort, Shapiro has complete control and had a hand in all of the album's five original tracks. If Brown felt remorse that he didn't offer nary a song or lyric, he didn't let on. In fact The Original Disco Man finds Brown animated and invigorated, due in part to the band. Featuring such luminaries as bassist David Hood and Roger Hawkins on drums, the players here are better than any latter-day JB's Brown could piece together. "It's Too Funky in Here" is chock full of Brown's growls, grunts, and non sequiturs. Musically, like the rest of the album, it's more of Shapiro's mix of soul/disco rather than of a replication of Brown's production style. Brown sounds right at home on this effort. "Star Generation," a track filled with dancy bass patterns and country guitar fills, has him making magic from lyrics as simple as "watch him rock." Although the masterful title track is a little self-congratulatory, Brown certainly was due. As the backup girls sing the suitably flattering chorus, Brown screams, "You tell em' you tell em'." That song in particular proves that Shapiro was one of the best producers Brown had worked with. As a Southern disco effort and a Brown album, The Original Disco Man more than gets the job done.

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