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The Singles, Vol. 11: 1979-1981

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Album Review

Why was disco such a strange era for James Brown? Could it be that the beat was too relentless, never giving him the opportunity to breathe, to roam the way he loved so? Perhaps it was due to his band steadily losing all of its prime players, leaving him with journeymen who didn't infuse the rigid 4/4 with flair. Either way, the singles collected on the 11th and final volume of Hip-O Select's series of double discs chronicling James Brown's King/Polydor singles is a little haphazard, flitting between the generic, the perfunctory, and the passable, sometimes sliding into the pretty good. Brown is all over the place here, covering "I Go Crazy" with little passion, pumping out the disco and surprisingly coming up with a quiet storm ballad "Regrets" that flirts with country. The inclusion of nine 12" mixes — including versions of "For Goodness Sakes, Look at Those Cakes," "The Spank," and "It's Too Funky in Here" — and a live single accentuates the scattershot nature of these three years, and while there are certainly worthwhile moments, they're the kind only the devoted, the ones who have stuck through this series through ten preceding volumes, will find of note.

Biography

Born: May 3, 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...
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