James Brown: Live at the Apollo

MAY 1963 (49 YEARS AGO)
James Brown: Live at the Apollo is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 5/5
# Allmusic 4.5/5 stars
Live at the Apollo is a live album by James Brown and The Famous Flames, recorded at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and released in 1963. In 2003, the album was ranked number 24 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 2004, it was one of 50 recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry.
Live at the Apollo was recorded on the night of October 24, 1962 at Brown’s own expense. Brown’s record label, King Records, originally opposed releasing the album, believing that a live album featuring no new songs would not be profitable. The label finally relented under pressure from Brown and his manager Bud Hobgood. (It was disagreements such as this that moved Brown to begin recording for Smash Records the following year, in violation of his contract with King).
To King’s surprise, Live at the Apollo was an amazingly rapid seller. It spent 66 weeks on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart, peaking at #2. Many record stores, especially in the southeast US, found themselves unable to keep up with the demand for the product, eventually ordering several cases at a time. R&B disc jockeys often would play side 1 in its entirety, pausing (usually to insert commercials) only to return to play side 2 in full as well. The side break occurred in the middle of the long track “Lost Someone”.
Although not credited on the album cover or label, Brown’s vocal group, The Famous Flames (Bobby Byrd, Bobby Bennett, and Lloyd Stallworth), played an important co-starring role in Live at the Apollo, and are included with Brown by M.C. Fats Gonder in the album’s intro.
An astonishing record of James and the Flames tearing the roof off the sucker at the mecca of R&B theatres, New York’s Apollo. When King Records owner Syd Nathan refused to fund the recording, thinking it commercial folly, Brown single-mindedly proceeded anyway, paying for it out of his own pocket. He had been out on the road night after night for a while, and he knew that the magic that was part and parcel of a James Brown show was something no record had ever caught. Hit follows hit without a pause — “I’ll Go Crazy,” “Try Me,” “Think,” “Please Please Please,” “I Don’t Mind,” “Night Train,” and more. The affirmative screams and cries of the audience are something you’ve never experienced unless you’ve seen the Brown Revue in a Black theater. If you have, I need not say more; if you haven’t, suffice to say that this should be one of the very first records you ever own.
REVIEW
by Mark Deming, allmusic
In 1963, James Brown had earned a handful of hits on the R&B charts and had won a reputation as one of the most dynamic performers in the nation, but he hadn’t yet made a record that reflected the full range of his musical personality or his magnetic stage presence. Live at the Apollo killed these two birds with one smoking hot platter; while this performance predates the brittle but powerful funk grooves which would later make Brown the most sampled man in show business and focuses on his earlier and (relatively) more conventional hits, the building blocks of his pioneering sound are all here in high-octane live versions of “I’ll Go Crazy,” “Think, and especially the frantic closing performance of “Night Train,” while the ten-minute-plus rendition of “Lost Someone” captures the sound of Brown baring his soul with an almost unbearable intensity, which drives the audience into a manic chorus of shouts and screams. Brown’s band (which at this time included Bobby Byrd and St. Clair Pinckney) is in stellar form, tight as a fist (especially the horn section) and supporting their leader with both strength and subtlety, but Brown is truly the star of this show, and by the end of these 32 minutes, no one will doubt that James really was the hardest working man in show business (and this without even seeing him dance!), and his communication with his audience is nothing short of astounding. While James Brown would later make more amazing music in the studio, Live at the Apollo left no doubt in anyone’s mind that he was a live performer without peer, and that his talent could communicate just as strongly on tape as in person; a watershed album, both for James Brown and for the burgeoning soul music movement.
TRACKS:
Side one
1.            “Introduction” (by Fats Gonder) – 1:49
2.            “I’ll Go Crazy” – 2:05
3.            “Try Me” – 2:14
4.            “Think” – 1:45
5.            “I Don’t Mind” – 2:28
6.            “Lost Someone, Part 1” – 4:01
Side two
1.     “Lost Someone, Part 2” – 5:54
2.     “Medley: Please, Please, Please/You’ve Got The Power/I Found   Someone/Why Do You Do Me/I Want You So Bad/I Love You, Yes I Do/Strange Things Happen/Bewildered/Please, Please, Please”  6:27
3.            “Night Train”      3:26
2004 Deluxe Edition bonus tracks             
9.            “Think” (Single Mix, Radio Promo Version)          
10.          “Medley: I Found Someone/Why Do You Do Me/I Want You So Bad” (Single Mix)            
11.          “Lost Someone” (Single Mix)     
12.          “I’ll Go Crazy” (Single Mix)

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