Tag Archives: James Brown

Rocks In The Attic #790: Lyn Collins – ‘Think (About It)’ (1972)

RITA#790Anything James Brown related is always worth picking up, and this 2014 reissue of Lyn Collins’ 1972 debut is no exception.

Produced by James for his People Records label, it features his influence all over the record; he’s grinding the organ on Women’s Lib, and it’s not hard to hear his voice in the background of most songs. The album’s title track, a stone cold funk gem that has since been sampled countless times, was a standout on James Brown’s Funky People, the 1986 compilation of the label’s greatest grooves.

It almost seems like James Brown knew that sampling was going to happen. It’s on the heavily sampled break midway through Think (About It) where he’s the most audible, hollering and yelping at the groove.

Hit: Think (About It)

Hidden Gem: Fly Me To The Moon

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Rocks In The Attic #758: James Brown – ‘Sex Machine (1970)

RITA#758From the man who invented one genre, comes a record that started another. Arguably the most important record in the genesis of Hip Hop, DJ Kool Herc used two copies of this to ignite a revolution on the streets.

Presented as a live double LP, the first disc is mostly studio recordings with added reverb and applause between tracks. The second disc was recorded in Augusta, Georgia in October 1969, but still suffers from added reverb and cheering crowds.

In 1972, DJ Kool Herc started incorporating it into his sets at parties n his Bronx apartment. Using two copies of the record across two turntables, Herc was able to isolate the mid-song break of Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose – ‘Clap your hands! Stomp you feet!’ – and play it continuously, back and forth. These ‘Merry-Go-Rounds’, as they became to be known, served as the basis for Herc and fellow emcees to rap over, ultimately becoming the blueprint for Hip Hop.

RITA#758aTo put the timeline in context, it wasn’t until 1979 when The Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight was released and the genre started its journey into the mainstream. Herc lit the flame seven year earlier, and James Brown supplied the matches, becoming the hardest working sample in showbusiness over the next decade.

In terms of Brown’s career, the album sits squarely at the halfway point between his ‘60s soul output, and his heavier ’70s funk material. The setlists feature a good mixture of both genres – Please, Please, Please and It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World sits happily alongside Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine, for example – but it’s that killer break on Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose that stands out the most.

“….Clyde….”

“…Bootsy…”

Hit: Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine

Hidden Gem: I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door I’ll Get It Myself)

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Rocks In The Attic #727: James Brown – ‘Santa’s Got A Brand New Bag’ (1988)

RITA#727The Godfather of Soul would have been going through a bit of a revival in the late 1980’s. His screams and drum-breaks were sampled all over the burgeoning hip hop genre, and white audiences would have been reminded of him following his appearance on the soundtrack to Rocky IV. His output around this time, particularly on 1986’s Gravity and 1988’s I’m Real, sounds very of its time. The funk is there, but so are the synthesisers and drum machines.

So it would have been a great time to cash-in with a compilation of his Christmas-themed songs from 1966 to 1970. You might find it incredible that any one artist could have recorded so many festive songs in a four-year period – twelve are presented here, culled from singles, b-sides and three standalone Christmas albums – but James’ output during this period was incredible. Not only could he have released a song of him reading the South Carolina phonebook, but the resulting single, Funky Phone Book Pts. 1 & 2, would surely have been a hit on the R&B charts.

Most of these songs collected here show the slower, soulful side of James’ pre-funk career, but the standout is a song from the pointier end of the ‘60s. Soulful Christmas is a funk workout from ‘68, featuring James belting out the lyric ‘Happiness…Good gawd…Huh…I got plenty of!’ before calling for Maceo Parker to play his funky sax.

Santa would be proud. Merry Christmas everybody.

Hit: Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto

Hidden Gem: Soulful Christmas

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Rocks In The Attic #626: James Brown – ‘Get Up Offa That Thing ’ (1976)

RITA#626The collector in me breathes a heavy, internal sigh when I think about James Brown records. I’ve always liked the collecting aspect of music, almost as much as the tunes themselves. It started with Aerosmith, and I ingested everything greedily. Then I turned to AC/DC, same deal; then the Beatles. And on and on and on.

It’s too hard with James Brown though – he just has too many records. Wikipedia credits him with having sixty-three studio albums, fifteen live albums and forty-nine compilations (at the time of writing). Of course, there’s a lot of variability in there – a couple of diamonds for every half a dozen lumps of coal.

It’s always worth the effort mining his work though – this, his forty-sixth studio record, features one of his biggest hits, Get Up Offa That Thing / Release The Pressure. The song, released as a two-part single a couple of months before the album dropped, is a dancefloor smash and a worthy addition to the man credited on the sleeve as the Minister of New New Super Heavy Funk. He should add ‘doctor’ to his list of titles, given his medical advice in the song – ‘Get up offa that thing and dance till you feel better!’

RITA#626aI’d like to collect all sixty-three studio records but I think it might be too difficult, particularly considering my location in the world. I’m sure that I’d have a better chance if I was within driving distance of record shops in the Bronx, or other inner-city American areas. There’s always Discogs though, and that helped me greatly when I was collecting all of the James Bond soundtracks.

Perhaps I have another James-related quest in me. Five down, fifty-eight to go…

Hit: Get Up Offa That Thing / Release The Pressure

Hidden Gem: I Refuse To Lose

Rocks In The Attic #482: Aerosmith – ‘Live At Paul’s Mall, Boston’ (2015)

RITA#482I love this record. It’s perhaps my favourite bootleg; I’ve owned a CD copy of it for years before finally finding it on vinyl a few weeks ago. Dating back to April 1973 (the sleeve incorrectly dates it to March), when the band were touring in support of their first album, it’s the holy grail of live performances for Aerosmith fans.

Excerpts from the show first appeared officially on 1978’s Live! Bootleg, Columbia Records’ attempt at putting a live album in the marketplace to battle against all of the unofficial bootleg performances – including this one – that were switching hands by the late ‘70s.

Most of Live! Bootleg is stadium rock, together with a couple of club performances, but the real highlight is the two tracks from the Paul’s Mall performance – Jimmy Reed’s I Ain’t Got You and James Brown’s Mother Popcorn.

It might seem odd that they’d play these two songs while touring their first album – and perhaps odder still that they’d include the two tracks on an official live album – but there’s method in the madness.

I Ain’t Got You was written Calvin Carter, a songwriter at Vee Jay Records, one of the labels that initially signed the Beatles before Capitol stepped up to the plate. The song was released as a single by both Jimmy Reed and Billy Boy Arnold in 1955, but it was the Yardbird’s 1964 cover of the song (as a b-side to their Good Morning Little Schoolgirl single) that interested Aerosmith.

The Yardbirds were one of the band’s shared influences when they formed in 1970, and it’s nice to see that they were still paying songs from their heroes three years later (they would even record a cover of Think About It on 1979’s Night In The Ruts).

The James Brown cover also betrays the band’s early influences. Prior to joining the band as their stalwart drummer, Joey Kramer was the drummer of a Meters-style funk band. The only white guy in a band full of black funk musicians, his really must have been worth his shit. Aerosmith would of course dabble in funk throughout the ‘70s, on tracks like Walk This Way and Last Child, and their cover of James Brown’s 1969 funk workout should be viewed as an early forerunner of these songs.

The only problem with this bootleg is that it splits the two songs – one appears at the end of side one, the other at the beginning of side two – and presents them in the opposite order in which they were recorded (and presented on Live! Bootleg), presumably for space reasons. As a result, the Kramer kick-drum / Steven Tyler scat segue between the two songs is ruined. Bloody bootleggers, eh?

The rest of the performance is just as strong, with the band cruising through the majority of their first album, and even providing a blast through Tiny Bradshaw / Johnny Burnette’s Train Kept A-Rollin’, which they would record for 1974’s Get Your Wings – again another song that was popularised by the Yardbirds in the 1960s.

Hit: Walking The Dog

Hidden Gem: Mother Popcorn

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Write Moo A Letter (My Top-10 Aerosmith Songs)

A few weeks ago my good friend Moo emailed me out of the blue and asked me to list my top ten Aerosmith songs. I nearly spat out my tea. You see, Moo doesn’t like Aerosmith. In fact, that’s the understatement of the twenty first century. Out of all the bands in the world that Moo likes to pour scorn on, it’s Aerosmith. He doesn’t like to just pour scorn on them though, opting instead to apply the scorn with a high-pressure hose.

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There are plenty of reasons for his disapproval of course. Aerosmith are now a terrible band (Moo would say they always have been), they’ve pissed all over their legacy (he’d ask ‘what legacy?’) and in Steven Tyler the band are fronted by one of the most annoying men in the history of music (no argument there). The main reason he targets them though is that they’re my favourite band. A healthy friendship is all about holding your friend’s loves up to the light. Checks and balances and all that. It provides good banter too.

Of course, when it comes to criticism of Aerosmith, I have a hide as tough as a rhinoceros. I’ve written  about my love for them before, and there’s no stopping that now. I’m too old to change my ways – and anyway, for me the good easily outweighs the bad, even if the ‘bad’ gets progressively more challenging every year. Only the other day I heard that Tyler and co hinted at a farewell tour in 2017. Was I sad to hear the news? No, just like finding out your abusive parent was hit by a bus, it’ll be nice for them to go away to a place where they can’t do any more harm. And anyway, the news of Steven Tyler’s forthcoming country album was the thing that really filled me with dread.

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Moo looks for Aerosmith news in the French newspapers

So Moo was curious I guess, maybe wanting to know what makes me tick, and a woeful list in the Guardian prompted him to ask me for mine. He promised to make a Spotify playlist of the offending tracks, give it a fair listen and report back accordingly.

So the challenge: boil down my love of Aerosmith into just ten songs, and put together a list of tracks that Moo won’t turn up his nose to; an impossible feat. Aerosmith’s songs are in my DNA, my favourites change on a weekly basis, and they’d change drastically depending on who was asking.

I decided from the start to avoid the ‘big three’ – Dream On, Walk This Way and Sweet Emotion. I didn’t want to waste my precious ten choices on songs that everybody knows (even though Moo claimed to have never heard Dream On before). The other important thing for me was to draw heavily from the pre-Geffen years. I can find things I like about the Geffen years and beyond, but I think most true Aerosmith fans know that those years pale in comparison to the magic that was put down to tape in the 1970s.

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First of all, my ten and my reasons behind my choices:

1. Rattlesnake Shake (Live) (Pandora’s Box, 1991 – recording from 1971)

I chose this as it’s a great example of where the band came from. Early Fleetwood Mac extended into a Yardbirds-style jam. The guitar work-out that takes up the second portion of the song is awesome.

2. Lord Of The Thighs (Get Your Wings, 1974)

After the under-produced and somewhat workaday feel of their first album, this is possibly the first real example of the band showing their cards. Of course it helps to have a decent producer on board in the form of ‘sixth-Aero’ Jack Douglas.

3. Seasons Of Wither (Get Your Wings, 1974)

Just bloody lovely. I refuse to classify this as a power ballad – there’s more to it than that – and I would offer that this is the band’s first successful attempt at creating an otherness that is usually absent from their straight-ahead rockers and slower ballads.

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How Joe Perry could see anything at all in the mid-’70s is a complete mystery

4. Adam’s Apple (Toys In The Attic, 1975)

A sick guitar riff. By this time, it feels like Joe Perry could come up with a riff – no matter how backwards it sounds – and the band would just effortlessly bring it to life. The dictionary definition of a deep cut, the song did eventually enjoy a brief moment in the spotlight on 1988’s Gems compilation and an even sicker live version on 1991’s Pandora’s Box.

5. No More No More(Toys In The Attic, 1975)

A sunny tale of life on the road in a rock and roll band, you can almost smell the dusty tour-bus and imagine the crumbling walls of the cheap motels. The band would have been travelling more comfortably and staying at a better class of accommodation after their stratospheric rise in the wake of this album. No matter where I am, no matter what time of day it is, the sun always shines in my mind when I play this song.

6. Last Child (Rocks, 1976)

A great example of the band’s funk-inspired beginnings (drummer Joey Kramer’s gig prior to joining the band was in a Meters-style funk outfit). It definitely sounds like white man’s funk though. You could dance to it, but it might give you a headache if you over-think it.

7. Sick As A Dog (Rocks, 1976)

From the same album, Sick As A Dog is the jewel in the crown on Rocks. This rocker features an instrumental break half way through, giving the band the chance to switch instruments. The song starts off with Joe Perry on bass and Tom Hamilton on rhythm guitar. Then in the break, Steven Tyler takes over on bass while Perry resumes guitar duties for the end solo. Awesome.

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Breaking down walls with Run DMC

8. Krawhitham(Pandora’s Box, 1991 – recording from 1977)

This one’s an unreleased instrumental track written and played by the ‘other three’ – Joey Kramer, Brad Whitfordand Tom Hamilton – while they were waiting, bored, for Tyler and Perry to turn up to the studio. It’s my jam, to use the common parlance of the time.

9. Chiquita (Night In The Ruts, 1979)

This was being recorded just as Joe Perry walked out of the band in 1979. In his absence, Tyler took what Perry had intended to be a guitar line and turned it into a great horn part, reminiscent of the Who’s 5.15, or the Beatles’ Savoy Truffle.

10. Monkey On My Back (Pump, 1989)

This is the only post-sobriety one I’ve bothered to include. There are good songs from this period, but they’re definitely fewer and farther between. And it doesn’t make sense to include more at the expense of a song from their golden period. The Geffen years weirdly correlate with the advent of compact discs and as a result everything sounds a little too cold and clinical from here on in.

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Vini and Moo singing along to some Aerosmith classics


I flicked off the email to Moo and waited for the criticism to come back. It didn’t take long. Over to Moo…

Rattlesnake Shake

“OK, I suppose. Like a million other early ‘70s bands. Nice Eddie Vedder-ish vocals though. I dispute the awesomeness of the jam at the end. It went on for far too long. At one point I thought it was never going to end.”

Lord Of The Thighs

“This is pretty good, the guitar riff and piano line sound quite sinister. Like something from a gritty ‘70s cop film. Although I’m impressed that they can sing the lyrics without laughing.”

Aero3Seasons Of Wither

“This isn’t too bad. Almost as good as early Boston.”

Adam’s Apple

“This is much better. Although I’d stop short of saying it’s good.”

No More No More

“At this point, I start to think that I just won’t like them. There’s nothing wrong with this exactly, it’s just dull.”

Last Child

“Is it me or does this sound like Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick? But this is the best so far; really good song.”

Sick As A Dog

“This is not very good.”

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Krawitham

“Not bad, but it feels like a song with the singing missing, which I guess is what it is.”

Chiquita

“This is pretty good. Nice horns as you say. It shows that they had listened to punk and (almost) understood it.”

Monkey On My Back

*listens to the first half then presses skip*

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With the benefit of hindsight, maybe I should have chosen different songs? I did think about including Aerosmith’s live cover of James Brown’s Mother Popcorn from 1978’s Live! Bootleg. It’s a funky gem, but the eleven-minute track includes a ‘hidden’ version of Draw The Line which might have tested his patience even further.

I also toyed with the idea of including the Live! Bootleg version of Walk This Way. Yes, everybody and their grandmother might have heard the song, but this version has Joe Perry playing the main riff through the talk-box effect (famous for its appearance on the intro to Sweet Emotion). It could have been very different if they had applied this guitar effect to all of their songs from this point onwards – Peter Frampton eat your heart out – but hearing it on this track just sounds weirdly out of place; a curio for sure.

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The band should be applauded for sticking with their blind clothes designer

Well, you can’t please all the people all the time, can you? I once gave Moo a spare copy of AC/DC’s Powerage, which turned him onto the mighty ‘DC in a way I could never have imagined. It’s a shame that a similar thing isn’t going to happen here. Perhaps Moo is hardwired to like bad Aerosmith only? I could have easily put together a Top 10 Worst Aerosmith song list, but I wouldn’t want to put him through this. Maybe I should have bought him a copy of Just Push Play and be done with it.

Ah, fuck it. For Moo it really is just a case of No More, No More.

For another ‘alternative best of Aerosmith playlist’ check out this post on the Every Record Tells A Story blog , a great site put together by fellow Aero-head Steve Carr.

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The band take a break in the breakfast nook of the Campbell household

Rocks In The Attic #439: James Brown – ‘The Best Of’ (1987)

RITA#439I grew with a CD copy of this album in the house. It was my Dad’s only James Brown album. Well, at least he had one. It could have been worse; it could have been a James-free house. Ugh, that would have been a disaster.

This is a pretty run of the mill compilation. The K-Tel record label doesn’t really scream artistic authenticity, and as you might expect it’s just a cash-in record to follow on from the success of the Gravity record a year before. Living In America, the big hit off Gravity, was used as Apollo Creed’s entrance music (before being destroyed by Ivan Drago) in Rocky IV – and if a James Brown song takes centre-stage in a Hollywood blockbuster, well the obvious thing to do is to bring out a greatest hits package to capitalise on the scores of movie-goers who might want to hear a bit more.

As far as James Brown compilations go, there are much better ones; but it suits the casual listener’s first toe in the funky water. Two songs from Gravity stand up next to the Godfather’s biggest pop singles from the 1960s and his greatest funk workouts from the 1970s. The long running time (xx minutes) works perfectly on CD, but the vinyl pressing is too busy, too compressed to provide a decent document of James’ – and most importantly, his band’s – sound.

Hit: I Got You (I Feel Good)

Hidden Gem: Honky Tonk