BROWN, JAMES – Super Bad

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"Although 'Super Bad' was recorded in 1971 when James Brown’s band was at its peak creating the new funk sound, there is a surprising mixture of styles on here that also encompass other phases of Brown’s career. The back side of the album cover claims that this is a live album, but its well known by now that the applause on here was added later. The fact that James never talks to the 'audience' would be the first give away to me. Few entertainers engaged their audience to the degree that James would.

This album opens with the title song, 'Super Bad' (parts 1,2 & 3, oh my!), which brings on the hardcore funk to start things right. There are no musician credits on here, but more than likely that is Jimmy Nolan scratching out a persistent syncopated riff on the guitar to a fast break-beat while James exhorts his musicians and asks for saxophonist Maceo Parker to “give me some Trane”. Maceo responds with screeching saxophone in the new avant-garde style of John Coltrane. This free soloing over an energetic relentless rhythm can be seen as a forerunner for the 'free funk' and 'punk jazz' scenes of the early 80s. In fact, if you owned this track plus Miles 'Get Up With It' and Sly’s 'There’s a Riot Going On', you were on top of where a lot of music was heading.

For being an early 70s JB album, its surprising that the lengthy title track is the only funk tune on here, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the album is bad at all. If you like Brown’s way with ballads, he has two great ones on here, 'Sometime' and 'A Man’s got to Go Back to the Crossroads'. Both deal with heartbreak in that way that only James can, where he lays his life on the line with every word. 'Let it be Me' and 'By the Time I get to Phoenix' are up-tempo soulful remakes of pop classics. 'Let it be Me' is the best of the two due to some un-credited high energy female vocals, possibly Lynn Collins. Longtime James fans will have to laugh when he finishes the first line on 'Phoenix' with his signature “Hunh!! The one oddball number on here is 'Giving out of Juice', a straight up blues with a slight rock sound featuring heavily distorted guitar fills and solos. Possibly James was going for the hippie crowd on that one, ha."  

- JS,

Super Bad Part 1, 2 And 3 9:55
Let It Be Me 3:20
Sometime 3:25
A Man Has To Go Back To The Crossroads 3:01
Giving Out Of Juice 10:39
By The Time I Get To Phoenix 3:00