James Brown, In the Jungle Groove
Blistering, vibrant funk workouts
James Brown's nearly unbroken hit streak ran from the mid '60s to the mid '70s, but his 1970-71 band — featuring teenage bassist William "Bootsy" Collins, his guitarist brother Phelps Collins, and king of the drummers Clyde Stubblefield — was the best he ever had. It started less than auspiciously, when the Godfather's band quit en masse before a show in Georgia and he called a bunch of kids (who'd been recording under his supervision as the New Dapps) to fly down from Cincinnati and play a gig with no rehearsal. Mere weeks later, though, they were making some of the greatest dance records of that era.
This set features a series of long, blisteringly intense funk workouts from that period, plus a couple that immediately preceded it and followed it. In those days, Brown had a tendency to record a song, then come up with an even hotter arrangement and record it again. "Sex Machine," his most enduring 1970 hit, isn't here; instead, we get its grimier, crazier rewrite "Get Up, Get Into It and Get Involved." "Talkin' Loud & Sayin' Nothing," a stomping transformation of a song JB had initially recorded as an acid-rock number, finds him so caught up in inspiration that he rewrites it in the middle of the take (instructing engineer Ron Lenhoff to keep the tape running while he and Bobby Byrd throw in an a cappella breakdown). And the set's highlight is the jet-propelled remake of "Give It Up Or Turnit a Loose" that the band recorded for the Sex Machine album. In the Jungle Groove, initially released in 1986, inspired a million hip-hop samples — it didn't hurt that it included both the uncut nine-minute Stubblefield showcase "Funky Drummer" and Danny Krivit's three-minute "bonus beat" edit of Stubblefield's immortal drum break. (For an overlapping selection of tracks from the same era, there's also Funk Power 1970: A Brand New Thang.)