Live At The Apollo - James Brown and The Famous Flames
Produced by James Brown
Released May 1963
Billboard Top Pop Chart #2
2004 Deluxe Edition with Bonus Tracks
I wanted to end this week of looking at some Live Albums with One of the Greatest Live Albums I think. I would totally disagree with the NME and their 50 Greatest Live Albums Ever which saw this classic James Brown album at only #37... and they had Jay-Z at #7!... What is the world coming to?
There's a few things I love about this album. First, the fact that James Brown believed in making this album even when his record label scoffed at the whole idea. He paid for it out of his own pocket. I wonder who had egg on their faces when on release it was a huge seller and spent 66 weeks on the charts!
Secondly, I love the legacy this album has. In 2003, the album was ranked #25 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 2004, it was one of 50 recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to The National Recording Registry. That's not bad for an album that was deemed "unprofitable" by his label King Records.
Thirdly, I love it for the music, which is of course the most important reason. Recorded at The Apollo Theater in Harlem on 24th October 1962 and featuring The Famous Flames who had also sung backing on many of his singles from 1956 right through until 1968.
The Famous Flames by the way were actually a band that James Brown was a member of and he emerged as the lead vocalist in time for their debut single release Please, Please, Please in 1956 (on Federal which was a subsidiary of King Records). They consisted of Bobby Byrd (who had founded the group in 1953), Lloyd Stallworth and Bobby Bennett. One of the greatest TV performances ever of Please, Please, Please by James Brown is from the TAMI show in the Sixties, man I could watch that clip all day it's so magnificent (it was also used in the film The Commitments).
The original album only lasts 31 minutes and 31 seconds and Brown demonstrates what an incredible showman he was even back then as he raises the temperature through out the set and yet manages some sweeter, quieter moments only to burst into some of the finest R&B, Soul and Funk that you've ever heard.
They don't really make Live Albums like this anymore...maybe because there are so few artists around that can cause such an incredible stir in such a short space of time. I was so blown away listening to it again last night that I ended up playing it twice in a row, because it's that darn good!
Oh, and one last thing about the album that I totally love is MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer citing Live at the Apollo as the inspiration to Kick Out the Jams:
"Our whole thing was based on James Brown. We listened to Live at the Apollo endlessly on acid. We would listen to that in the van in the early days of 8-tracks on the way to the gigs to get us up for the gig. If you played in a band in Detroit in the days before The MC5, everybody did 'Please, Please, Please' and 'I Go Crazy.' These were standards. We modeled The MC5's performance on those records. Everything we did was on a gut level about sweat and energy. It was anti-refinement. That's what we were consciously going for."
Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!