UMG Recordings, Inc.
There used to be one million James Brown compilations. Now there is one million and one. The Samples isn’t the definitive greatest hits, nor can it replace it, and you don’t need it at all but it’s still a brilliant compilation of brilliant music by one of the 20th Century’s most important musicians.
James Brown’s influence on hip-hop, funk, soul and R’n’B is profound. No James Brown, no Prince. No James Brown, no rap music. Well, there would still be – but not as we know it. And the James Brown songs that were sampled to form the bedrock of hip-hop music are legendary – in many cases they were legendary funk songs already. But certainly a piece like Funky Drummer has been sampled so many times that even if you don’t know the original groove you know it when you hear it in hundreds of rap classics. So, no Funky Drummer, no De La Soul, no Beastie Boys, no Snap! Etc…
I like the idea of this compilation for many reasons. It all comes back to how great James Brown is and how important people like drummers Clyde Stubblefield and John “Jabo” Starks were – this compilation is as much about their contributions as anything.
But also, removing familiar gems like Try Me, Please Please Please, Think, I Feel Good, It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World and Living In America in favour of “lesser” songs like Escap-ism Pt. 1, I’m A Greedy Man and Blues & Pants means the narrative is switched to focus on just the sinewy funk of the 60s and 70s rather than tossing a nod to his 50s R’n’B or the last comeback pop-funk of the 80s
The 1971 instrumental album, Sho Is Funky Down Here, sounds more like Parliament-Funkadelic than anything else in Brown’s catalogue (it sounds more like P-Funk than P-Funk actually!) and so to hear the fuzzy-guitar goodness of Just Enough Room For Storage is a welcome reminder of just how broad Brown went with funk.
You will know so many of these tunes from simply their rhythmic elements – The Payback’s fatback snare from its use as a Massive Attack mood, or indeed on a half dozen other songs, or Funky President’s hot-steppin’ hi-hat and snare, The Boss’ slinky guitar and drums…I mean it’s just all masterclass funk.
And so to hear it all lined up like this and with your mind on how it was borrowed (stolen) to make something else gives this its impetus, gives this collection not just its heart (and soul) but its reason. It’s fun to hear things like this all lined up in this sort of row; to think again of James Brown’s (ongoing) contribution to music.
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