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The Singles Vol. 7 (1970-1972)

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Album Review

The seventh installment in Hip-O Select's ongoing reissue campaign of James Brown's complete singles covers the years 1970-1972 — a pivotal period that found JB swapping out rebellious longtime bandmembers and bringing in bassist Bootsy Collins and his brother, guitarist Catfish. Their stint with the J.B.'s may have been brief, lasting just over a year, but it was legendary, producing the immortal singles "Get Up I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine," "Super Bad," "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved," and "Talking Loud and Saying Nothing," all propelled forward by Bootsy's elastic, rubber-legged bass and Catfish's skittering, complicated guitar. The Collins brothers pushed Brown into the '70s, giving him a loose, unpredictable touch that was subtly yet dramatically different from the merciless grooves documented on The Singles, Vol. 6, but that unpredictability made the Collins restless, so they bolted for their own projects after just a year, with Brown returning to that tight sound in 1971, highlighted by the hits "Escape-Ism," "Hot Pants," and "Talking Loud and Saying Nothing." These two eras are brought into sharp relief on The Singles, Vol. 7, which essentially splits into a disc of the Collins-era and a disc of post-Collins-era, despite its rigid chronological-by-release date sequencing, a flow that places "Talking Loud" as a lively coda. This sequencing — which puts a solo J.B.'s single and a Lyn Collins side into the mix — is as illuminating as Alan Leeds' meticulously researched liner notes and sessionography, all of which place Brown's decidedly confusing discography in order, but the pile of promo edits, reverb versions, and alternate mixes, not to mention the preservation of the original single fade ins and outs, does make this more of a history lesson than a party, with the repetition feeling didactic, not mesmerizing. Ultimately, such complaints are splitting hairs — it's a gift to have Brown's original singles so lovingly and carefully preserved, and if The Singles, Vol. 7 does feel a bit academic, we'd be lucky if all lessons were as funky as this.


Born: 03 May 1933 in Barnwell, SC

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

"Soul Brother Number One," "the Godfather of Soul," "the Hardest Working Man in Show Business," "Mr. Dynamite" -- those are mighty titles, but no one can question that James Brown earned them more than any other performer. Other singers were more popular, others were equally skilled, but few other African-American musicians were so influential over the course of popular music. And no other musician, pop or otherwise, put on a more exciting, exhilarating stage show: Brown's performances were marvels...
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