Category Archives: The J.B.s

Rocks In The Attic #849: The J.B.’s – ‘Doing It To Death’ (1973)

RITA#849The J.B.’s second album proper, Doing It To Death finds the band following their 1972 debut with another set of future funk classics.  This time, despite the band being essentially an instrumental outfit, their bandleader James Brown is present and correct on most of the tracks. He leads the charge on the swing of the ten-minute title track, and on the album’s repetitive glimpses of the political You Can Have Watergate Just Gimme Some Bucks And I’ll Be Straight.

At the top of More Peas, James asks the rest of the band ‘Can we do it again?’ in a call and response chant, evoking the opening of the previous album’s Pass The Peas. It’s an odd move to suddenly join his backing band on their ‘instrumental’ side-project, given that the reason for the spin-off band in the first place was a loophole around his record company not allowing his vocal on too many records each year.

Hit: Doing It To Death (Parts 1 & 2)

Hidden Gem: More Peas

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Rocks In The Attic #840: Various Artists – ‘James Brown’s Funky People’ (1986)

RITA#840You wait twenty years for a reissue of this album (and its funky Part 2 follow-up) to come along, and all the funk-heads in Auckland race to the record store.

Last Friday, I received Southbound Record’s weekly email around 11am, and dashed out as soon as I could. I ended up snagging their last copy of this first volume, but somebody had beat me to the store’s only copy of Part 2. The helpful guy on the counter said that they hadn’t ordered as many copies of Part 2, thinking that it wouldn’t have been very popular, but in the end everybody that came in for Part 1 also asked for Part 2.

Such is the power of this collection: 46 minutes of unbelievable funk, split over a DJ-friendly four sides. Originally released in 1986, to capitalise on James’ newfound status as the hardest working sample in hip-hop, the compilation gathers together the best singles from his People record label. All but one song is recorded by the J.B.’s, James’ backing band led by funky trombonist Fred Wesley (the exception is Lyn Collins’ Rock Me Again & Again & Again & Again & Again & Again, which for some reason features Collin’s vocal against a backing track of unknown studio musicians).

As a result, the album is unbelievably cohesive for what is essentially a compilation of ‘various artists’. For the most part, it represents the J.B.’s greatest hits, and is easily the greatest achievement of a backing band this side of Booker T. & The M.G.’s. Pure desert island disc stuff.

It’s just the tonic for what’s happening in the world right now with the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). Today, New Zealand closed its borders to non-New Zealanders, and so the only thing to do is sit it out. Looks like my record player is going to get a workout…

Hit: Pass The Peas – The J.B.’s

Hidden Gem: Hot Pants Road – The J.B.’s

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Rocks In The Attic #388: The J.B.s – ‘Groove Machine’ (1979)

RITA#388$6.78, brand new, from Amazon. You can’t complain about prices like that. Or can you? Is there a reason this slab of vinyl is under $10?

Well, yes, there is. If, like me, you bought a copy of the reissued Food For Thought – the J.B.s’ nail-on-the-head 1972 debut – last year on Record Store Day, and paid $40 for the privilege, then yes, this record’s probably only worth a fraction of that.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t terrible. It’s just nowhere as strong as their early ‘70s output. It’s probably a similar story for James Brown’s output from the same year. I haven’t heard 1979’s Take A Look At Those Cakes, where James documents his attempt at entering the world of competitive cake-baking, or the follow-up, The Original Disco Man, but I’d hazard a guess that they’re not amongst his best. It would seem that after inventing funk, the James Brown stable were doing their hardest to keep up with the disco trend rather than sticking to what they knew best.

Groove Machine isn’t a bad record. When you compare it to some of the more disco-heavy bands of the time, it’s pretty good. Funky trombonist Fred Wesley had decamped in 1976, and it’s probably his leadership that’s sorely missing. It just doesn’t sound like the J.B.s.

I don’t know if it’s a comment on the quality of the music on the record, but the centre label doesn’t seem to want to own up to being any particular side. Both side A and side B are listed as being on the other side. Hmm, maybe that explains the $6.78 price tag…

Hit: Rock Groove Machine

Hidden Gem: Rock

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