For Christmas 2016 I sent samplers of sides from my library as gifts. Included was a James Brown side. My friend Jim received one and mentioned he needed to get back into James Brown. I said I would make up a list of my favorite forgotten James Brown sides. Between performing and production, James Brown is responsible for, oh, at least 600 45s. Hardest working man in show business indeed.
Like Tina Turner I always do things nice but never easy. This simple offer will turn into a series of posts about specific sides. The full list is at the end of this post if you lack the patience for me to write about all of them.
Anna King was a member of the James Brown Revue in the mid-60s. She is a Jeopardy answer and question: Anna King replaced her in the James Brown Revue (Who is Tammi Terrell?) During King’s time with the Revue, she cut five singles produced by Brown. A couple of them were minor hits. This was not one of them. This record failed to chart.
Why did I buy this record? Out of the material she recorded with Brown, this song is the best blend of Brown’s raw, gritty 1960s soul/R&B sound and King’s earthy voice. Her vocalization is strong on this record, more than a match for the uptempo stomper laid down by the band. In my opinion this is one of the best soul backing tracks the James Brown Orchestra recorded. Brown seems to know he has a great song on his hands, but he never lets the band overwhelm his singer. That would have been impossible anyways, as King really belts this one out without ever going over the top. The interlude has a fun if brief exchange between Brown, playing a quick little riff on the organ, and King that sounds like a duet.
If there is one complaint about this song, it is that it is too short. It clocks in at 1:54. Had this song gone on twice as long no one would have complained. OK, there are two complaints. The B-side “Make Up Your Mind”, is a song with potential that sounds incomplete. King turns in a fine performance, but there are long passages where the band plays a rather pedestrian ballad and King is not to be heard.
Had King remained with the James Brown Revue, I suspect she would have become a major force, especially as Brown moved away from his R&B roots and honed his funk stylings. She left the review after two years and spent a short time in her own soul band before leaving secular music and returning to gospel with Philadelphia’s Brockington Ensemble. Under Brown’s tutelage, she may have taken on the role of Lyn Collins, “The Female Preacher” in his revue. Preaching was her calling: she eventually became an ordained minister. Listening to her “sermon” in “You Don’t Think” and it is easy to understand how she made that transition.
THE FULL LIST OF ESSENTIAL FORGOTTEN JAMES BROWN (Bold indicates essential side)
Mr. Dynamite Years (1956-1964)
–“The Bells/And I Do Just What I Want”
–“Three Hearts In A Triangle/I’ve Got Money”
–“Out Of Sight/Maybe The Last Time”
Soul Brother Number One (1965-1969)
— “I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door, I’ll Get It Myself)”
–“Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose/I’ll Lose My Mind”
–“Goodbye My Love/Shades Of Brown”
–“Get It Together”
James Brown Productions (1963-1969)
–Anna King – “If You Don’t Think/Make Up Your Mind”
–James Crawford – “If You Don’t Work You Can’t Eat/Stop And Think It Over”
–Rev. Ty Willingham – “Try Me Father/That’s The Spirit”
–Al Brisco Clark – “Soul Food”
Minister of New New Super Heavy Funk (1970-1975)
–“Stone To The Bone”
–“I’m A Greedy Man”
The JBs (1970-1975)
–Myra Barnes (Vicki Anderson) – “Super Good”
–Lyn Collins – “Think/Ain’t No Sunshine”
–Bobby Byrd – “Never Get Enough/My Concerto”
–Fred Wesley & The JBs – “If You Don’t Get It The First Time, Back Up And Try It Again, Party/You Can Have Watergate Just Gimme Some Bucks And I’ll Be Straight”