Capturing the excitement

Doug
Doug Gallant
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Soundtrack for Get On Up: The James Brown Story a classic collection

The soundtrack for the new biopic on the life of James Brown, often billed as the hardest workingman in show business, features many of his classic recordings.

There were times during his life when James Brown got as much ink for what he did offstage as he did for what he did onstage.

Drug use, weapons violations and allegations of domestic violence garnered countless headlines in the tabloids.

While I’m sure the negative stories about how Brown lived his life turned some people off, one cannot and should not forget the contribution Brown made to popular music.

It can be argued that Brown, more than any other artist of his generation, redefined soul/R&B in America and helped plant the seed that led to the birth of funk.

I can’t help but wonder if we would ever have seen acts like Sly & The Family Stone, the Ohio Players and The Parliaments if Brown had not come along first.

Having grown up to Brown classics like Cold Sweat, Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag, I Got the Feelin’ and Mother Popcorn I clearly recall how the temperature on the dance would go up about 10 degrees when those songs were played.

That’s because people got so into Brown’s intense grooves they would just let themselves go and before you knew it you and your dance partner were a sweaty mess, shaking your moneymaker as if your next meal depended on it.

That kind of excitement is usually a “had-to-be-there” thing, difficult to capture on film, but some critics are saying the creators of Get On Up: The James Brown Story have managed to do just that.

While some liberties have been taken with certain details of Brown’s life, much of what you see in the film supposedly happened just the way they say it did.

But this is a music review not a film review, so let’s take a look at the music they chose to use for the film’s soundtrack.

Did they get it right? In a word, yes.

Fans should be happy with the makeup of the soundtrack. This is all classic Brown.

Pretty much all the big ones are here: Cold Sweat; Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag; Please, Please, Please; Mother Popcorn, I Got The Feelin’, Superbad, Sex Machine, It’s a Man’s World and several others.

Most of the songs featured on the soundtrack are the original studio recordings but the clincher for some fans will undoubtedly be the live recordings of such Brown gems as Please, Please, Please, Night Train, It’s A Man’s World, I Got The Feelin’ and Try Me.

Two previously unreleased concert recordings are heard in the new film. Please Please Please and It’s A Man’s World, both recorded in Tampa, Fla., in April of 1966 when Brown’s career was literally on fire.

Brown’s live performances, from his early days right up to the end, were legendary.

He gave a whole new meaning to the word showman with his incredible energy, his dance moves and a voice that enabled him to do anything he wanted with it.

After revisiting Brown’s music again it makes perfect sense that he was a charter member of Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

The Godfather of Soul inspired countless artists who followed him and continues to inspire new artists today.

If you don’t know why, see the film and/or listen to the soundtrack.

Brown, honored with the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992, died on Christmas Day 2006 at the age of 73.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Doug Gallant, a reporter with The Guardian, writes his music review column for The Guardian every week. He welcomes comments from readers at dgallant@theguardian.pe.ca or 629-6000, ext. 6057.

Organizations: Ohio Players, The Guardian, Recording Academy

Geographic location: America, Tampa, Fla.

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