James Brown’s ”Star Time”
Star Time‘s discography lists 183 singles and 75 albums, virtually all of which are out of print with few to mourn their passing, since most were outrageously short or clogged with filler. Brown’s most recent albums, 1986’s Gravity, produced by high-energy disco maven Dan Hartman, and 1988’s I’m Real, produced by the New York hip-hop crew Full Force, are spirited but misguided. Intending to boost Brown back onto the charts with snazzy studio showcases, they succeed mainly in reducing his usual possessed drive to mere enthusiasm. Of the pre-Star Time best-of collections, now on Polydor but soon to be deleted, the two volumes of The CD of JB are valuable for their concentrated doses of classic cuts. Serious students of soul can go deeper into the archives with the two-CD sets Roots of a Revolution, which collects honky-tonk R&B tracks recorded between 1956 and 1964, and Messing with the Blues, which ranges more widely over Brown’s career but concentrates on blues-based material. Both sets include previously unreleased cuts. Two separate Live at the Apollo albums capture Brown’s onstage intensity, but on 1967’s session the band is listless, the set meanders, and Brown sings ”That’s Life.” Only the one recorded in 1962 really catches fire.
Gravity: C; I’m Real: C-; The CD of JB: A-; Roots of a Revolution: B+; Messing With the Blues: A-; Live at the Apollo 1967: C; Live at the Apollo 1962: A