I totally skipped my morning swim again meaning that it’s been exactly one week since I’ve been in the pool. My excuse is that I just haven’t been feeling very motivated in the mornings lately, much less to get up and do my laps. I’ll kick start the swim program again next week as it is, I felt the need to back off a little bit for the time being. It’s not like I’m really training/preparing for anything – so what the fuck.
Besides, it is Friday the 13th and ‘Hell‘ seems to be in keeping with that theme.
‘Hell‘ was released in the middle of Brown’s career (1974 – Polydor Records), and although it isn’t laced with tons of hits, it does feature some incredibly tight and funky drumming courtesy of John “Jabo” Starks. Also at this time, Brown had such masterful players in the band as Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker (just before they went on to become an essential part of George Clinton’s P-Funk circus), Chuck Rainey, Ralph MacDonald, Joe Farrell, David Sanborn and Joe Beck, among others.
Basically, the who’s who of funk at that time.
I mean, seriously it just looks like a classic album. I mean just look at it. There’s a cover featuring nothing but downtrodden people in various states of despair… there’s a man in jail, a Native American scouring the newspapers for a job, a black intellectual (he’s wearing glasses anyway) with a gun to his head, and a women pissed off because the petrol pump is out of gas. And there’s the Watergate Tape (James was rather obsessed with Watergate at the time, as well he should be, having supported Nixon and all) and flames and the whole thing looks damn serious and depressing.
So why then does the Godfather of Soul sound so damn happy? For the first four songs, James is sounding as though he is having the time of his life. Even in the title track, a jam about how everything is hell (sample lyric : “it’s hell payin’ taxes when there’s no money left”) sounds like nothing but a party.
Beats the shit of me.
But however, you want to view it, this album is hailed as being among the pinnacles of his work as the “Minister of the Super New New Heavy Funk”. From the tough and nimble Latin rhythms of ‘Coldblooded‘, and ‘Sayin’ It and Doin’ It‘ to the title track, all are prime pre-disco Brown. ‘My Thang‘ is probably as hard and unrelenting as he got without spontaneously combusting. You do, however, have to forgive the album for ‘When the Saints Go Marching In‘ and ‘Stormy Monday‘ which don’t belong in Brown’s catalogue, let alone the same album. Fortunately though, ‘Papa Don’t Take No Mess‘ makes up for that with it’s laid-back, funky jazz, worth every one of its 13-plus minutes.
Great start to what will inevitably be a long, frustrating day of figuratively slamming myself over the head with my keyboard.
I have recently added this album to our vinyl collection to boot. And good thing too seeing as how I had no idea how absolutely amazing the album cover is since you’ll never get that enjoyment from a YouTube video.
I mean, look at this:
How freakin’ awesome is that?
That’s James Brown wrestling actual demons in Hell…and winning! But, of course his is – he’s James-fucking-Brown!