I Got the Feelin': James Brown in the '60s

Shout! Factory
By JEFF TAMARKIN  |  August 4, 2008
4.0 4.0 Stars
080808_jamesINSIDBy 1968, James Brown wasn’t merely “Soul Brother No. 1”; he was an African-American icon with the power to stop riots. That, at least, is what history has conveyed, and what’s documented in the first of the three discs from this set, The Night James Brown Saved Boston, David Leaf’s film about Brown’s performance at Boston Garden the night after Martin Luther King’s murder. As enlightening as the documentary is, though, it’s disc 2, Brown’s actual performance on that April night, that’s the centerpiece here. Introduced on the TV broadcast as “a memorial concert featuring Negro singer Jimmy Brown and his group,” the concert is incendiary and transfixing. Brown and the Famous Flames were in the process of inventing funk at the time (even the oddly chosen opening number, the Sinatra-associated “That’s Life,” is nasty), and the soon-to-be-Godfather is sweat-drenched and possessed. Same goes for the final disc, broadcast from Harlem’s Apollo Theater a month earlier under the title Man to Man. Working in front of an incongruous quasi-psychedelic light show more apropos of contemporary hipsters Sly and Hendrix, James Brown nonetheless owned the place.
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