James Brown

Night Train

Song Review by

Before perfecting his own minimalist brand of funk on songs like "Cold Sweat," James Brown put his distinctive touch on a number of different soul music genres. "Night Train" was Brown's inspired entry into the soul instrumental subgenre that groups like Booker T. & the M.G.'s dominated in the early '60s. "Night Train" was an old standard, previously tackled by the likes of Louis Prima, that primarily devotes itself to an instrumental groove built on a circular musical motif designed to replicate the churning sound of a locomotive. Brown's recording of this tune expands on the train-inspired melody with a tight, clever arrangement that adds jazzy, train whistle-styled horn riffs over a rolling, insistent rhythm section groove. Saxophonist J.C. Davis adds a few wild solos into the mix and James Brown himself holds the whole thing by laying down a steady beat behind the drum kit. Unlike many instrumentals, "Night Train" adds intermittent vocals from Brown, who kicks off the song with a lively "All aboard the night train!" and interjects soulful wails of the night train's stops (including Atlanta and Miami) before closing the tune out with a rousing chant of "night train, carry me home." All these engaging elements add up to a fun, rousing instrumental that was perfect for dancing. Accordingly, "Night Train" became a Top Five hit on the R&B chart and made it into the pop chart's Top 40 listings. It also inspired scads of other interpretations by everyone from King Curtis to Paul Revere & the Raiders. However, James Brown's take on "Night Train" remains the top favorite with soul fans and it also made the soundtrack of the hit Ron Howard film Apollo 13.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
No Image 1961 King
I Got You (I Feel Good) 1966 Creative Sounds
No Image 1977 Polydor 0:00
Quadrophenia [Music from the Soundtrack of The Who Film] 1979 Polydor 3:39
Soul Shots, Vol. 1: Sixties Soul Classics 1987
Various Artists
Rhino 3:35
20 All-Time Greatest Hits! 1991 Polydor 3:31
No Image 1991 Polygram 0:00
Apollo 13 [Music from the Motion Picture] 1995 MCA 3:27
Soulful Grooves: R&B Instrumental Classics, Vol. 2 1996
Various Artists
MVP Classic Soul, Vol. 1 1997
Various Artists
MVP Records 3:31
Empire Made 1998
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 3:30
Best of James Brown [Japan] 2002 Universal Distribution 3:32
The 50th Anniversary Collection 2003 UTV / Polydor / Universal 3:31
Gold: Greatest Hits 2004 Universal International 3:33
Sweethearts & Stolen Kisses: Dancehall Days 2014
Various Artists
Music Digital 3:32
No Image
Various Artists
Media Records