Tag Archives: James Brown

9 of the best – funk tracks of all time

It’s unclear if this is something anyone’s been wondering about, but this is the perfect funk soundtrack to a bank holiday weekend…

A early example from the Big O (1968) …

Otis Redding – Hard To Handle

The first one from the Prime Minister (1971) …

Funkadelic – Can You Get To That

Funked-up and southern (1971) …

Ann Sexton – You’ve Been Gone Too Long

The Prince Of Soul on drums (1972) …

Marvin Gaye – “T” Plays It Cool

The first one from the Godfather (1972) …

Lyn Collins – Think About It

The one that Prince, Morris Day and Jellybean had in mind (1973) …

Sly And The Family Stone – If You Want Me To Stay

The one with the lover’s groove (1973) …

Ohio Players – Ecstasy

A controversial selection from the main man (1974) …

James Brown – Funky President (People It’s Bad)

The second one from Clinton’s insane mind (1975) …

Parliament – Night Of The Thumpasorus People

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Honourable mentions also go to: Jimi Hendrix for ‘Crosstown Traffic‘ (1968); Marlena Shaw for ‘California Soul‘ (1969); James Brown for ‘Give It Up Or Turn It Loose‘ (1969); Bobby Byrd for ‘I Know You Got Soul‘ (1971); Cymnade for ‘Bra‘ (1972); Bobby Womack for ‘Across 110th Street‘ (1972); Kool & The Gang for ‘Jungle Boogie‘ (1973); The Lafayette Afro Rock Band for ‘Darkest Light‘ (1974). And there you have it – a set of tough, cold decisions …

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James Brown – Funky President (People It’s Bad) (1974)

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James Brown 1974

James Brown’s 1974 album Reality would be an undistinguished listen if it was not for this standout track. The quality of ‘Funky President’ is all the more remarkable when you read that the Godfather hired musicians instead of using his awesome house band the JBs. Those session men would hear their work live on as this song became a touchstone reference for sample loving hip hoppers.

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Eric B. And Rakim ‎- I Know You Got Soul (1987)

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Eric B & Rakim

“It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you/Without a strong rhyme, to step to”. Those immortal words are from the pioneering MC Rakim, and occur immediately after Eric B’s brilliant drum sample spot from Funkadelic’s ‘You’ll Like It Too’. In 1987, ‘I Know You Got Soul’ would have a huge impact; its use of George Clinton and JB-associated samples would become the default artistic path for hip hop artists. And by naming the track after Bobby Byrd’s classic funk workout, which they sample throughout, these guys were lighting the way. The following year, the inferior M|A|R|R|S derivative ‘Pump Up the Volume’ and Norman Cook (Double Trouble) remix would take the dance floors by storm.

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James Brown – Santa Claus, Santa Claus (1968)

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James Brown as Santa

Good Christmas music is an oxymoron, but if you look hard enough, you can find. And so I serve up another slice of melancholy with James Brown’s 1968 cut ‘Santa Claus, Santa Claus’. Brown is someone that invested in the festive season with a trio of Christmas-themed albums James Brown Sings Christmas Songs (1966), A Soulful Christmas (1968) and Hey America It’s Christmas (1970) during a time when he was reinventing soul. “Santa Claus, Santa Claus/Please, don’t make me suffer so.”

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Charles Bradley – Strictly Reserved for You (2013)

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Charles Bradley

Hey there soul lovers, do I have a little treat for you today?! James Brown died and was reborn with the voice of Otis Redding. Well that might be a bit superlative, but listening to the opening track of Charles Bradley’s album Victim of Love, you’ll get the idea. And nice touch, a psych-scorched guitar solo is thrown in for free. The 65-year-old singer is supported by The Menahan Street Band. Have a great weekend brothers and sisters.

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James Brown – Give It Up or Turnit A Loose (1969)

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James Brown 1969

Late start this morning – it’s a Monday, so give me a break… ‘Give It Up or Turnit a Loose’ is not only a funk classic recorded by James Brown in 1969, but it’s also the record that probably started the trend for breakdance, b-boys, block parties and hip hop culture. Its rhythmic breaks and classic refrains (“like a sex machine”, “now clap your hands!”, “in the jungle brother” etc.) lent themselves to the Merry-Go-Round (looping) that the pioneering DJs of New York were experimenting with in the late 1970s. And that’s the break.

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Bobby Byrd – I Know You Got Soul (1971)

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Bobby Byrd

In the mid-1980s, no one’s back catalogue was having more of an influence on fashion than the work of James Brown’s stable. This culminated in the purest of compliments from Eric B and Rakim when they heavily sampled Bobby Byrd for their single ‘I Know You Got Soul’. Byrd had recorded the song with James Brown’s band The J.B.’s. and J.B. himself subsequently produced it as a single in 1971. It still sounded fresh in 1987. It still sounds sick in 2013. Have a good weekend.

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The Jackson Sisters – I Believe In Miracles (1973)

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Urban Records popped up in the mid 80s as a reissue label for funk and rare groove 12-inch singles, including delights from Bobby Byrd, James Brown, Kool and the Gang, Maceo and the Macks and The Jackson Sisters. I chose ‘I Believe In Miracles’ because this much-sampled classic is rare groove 101. Have a great weekend.

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Ray Charles – What’d I Say (1959)

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Ray Charles

“Tell your mama, tell you pa, I’m going to send you back to Arkansas!” What’d I say about this song that hasn’t been said before? Influential is putting it mildly. I can hear Van Morrison, I can hear Spencer Davis Group, I can hear JB, I can hear Aretha, I can hear The Doors! It was a new sound and it changed things. The genius that is Ray Charles. Have a great weekend.

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James Brown – Shhhh For A Little While (1968)

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From one of James Brown’s lesser known albums, I Got The Feelin’, ‘Shhhh…’ has the right mix of jazz, funk, Hammond and offbeat unfamiliarity for someone that has listened to JB a lot. And this one has not been sampled, as far as I know. (Although there is more than a passing resemblance to Herbie Hancock’s oft-touched ‘Bring Down The Birds’.) Anything goes on the dancefloor with this one, all helped by the late delivery of that line ‘Give me some respect now’, however strange the moves you are busting. Enjoy!

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Lyn Collins – Think (About It) (1972)

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Up there with some key grooves from Ann Sexton, Marlena Shaw and the Jackson Sisters, this song from the Female Preacher forms the cream of female funk. Mama Feelgood’s (oh to have two pseudonyms) ‘Think (About It)’ was produced and co-written by James Brown, released on his People Records and featured instrumental backing from his band The J.B.’s. The track’s prominent line “It Takes Two…” loops in Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock’s track of the same name. In fact, with Brown’s ‘Funky Drummer’, it must be one of the most sampled tracks of all time. Have a funky week my friends!

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Gladys Knight & The Pips – No One Could Love You More (1971)

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The world needs to hear this song. This is one of those soul tracks that was before its years, driven by the type of backbeat pioneered by James Brown in the mid 60s. The celebratory sound of disco a full three years before Salsoul saw the light of day – the Empress’s groove just repeats gloriously over and over. A standing ovation indeed.

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