Monday, 22 June 2015

Art of the Cover - James Brown's "Star Time" {Box Set} (1991)

It's the beautifully presented treasure-chest of great music that is Star Time by James Brown.

This 71-track, 4-CD box sets spans the length of Brown's career up to the time of its release, starting in 1956 with his first hit record, "Please, Please, Please", and ending with "Unity", his 1984 collaboration with Afrika Bambaataa.

Writing in 2007, Robert Christgau described Star Time as ...
"the finest box set ever released ... as essential a package as the biz has ever hawked, not just because it's James Brown, but because compilers Cliff White and Harry Weinger invested so much care and knowledge in it."
The  title comes from the question Brown's announcer would ask concert audiences, as heard on the album Live at the Apollo: "Are you ready for star time?"

Star Time's liner notes, written by Cliff White, Harry Weinger, Nelson George, Alan Leeds, and Brown himself, won a 1991 Grammy Award for Best Album Notes. The notes also include a discography and a one-page comic by Mary Fleener, a visual interpretation of the song "I Got You (I Feel Good)."

In 2003, the album was ranked number 75 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It was the second-highest ranking box set on the list.

From pleading R&B singer to father of funk to black-pride spokesman to full-on pop star, James Brown became one of our most scintillating stars, and this expansive Star Time Box Set is easily his best retrospective. 

As well as a full 71 tracks across four compact discs, the beautifully presented "Star Time" Box Set contains a 64-page book replete with biography, discography and detailed track notes.

The compilation Producers were Bill Levenson, Cliff White, Harry Weinger and Oscar A. Young.

As well as some rarities and live performances, the tracks therein range from Brown's classic '50s hits Please, Please, Please and Try Me give way to Bewildered; Night Train; I Got You (I Feel Good); Papa's Got a Brand New Bag Pt. 1; Cold Sweat; Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud); Get Up Offa That Thang  ..... to all his later hits and extended grooves!

Five stars are barely adequate to describe how monumental this box set truly is. With over seventy tracks spanning thirty years of prime James Brown material, you will be exploring the offerings here for a very long time. 

With the tracks presented in chronological order, you can track the development over time not just of the JB sound (blues to R&B to funk to classic soul), but you can also follow the history of entire branches of popular music in which the JB influence looms large. 

Disc one covers the early years when James was storming the R&B and blues circuits with some of the most intense new sounds those scenes had ever encountered. He invents funk near the end of disc one, and even says so himself in the liner notes, where he credits the long-lost "Out of Sight" (heard here in its original form for the first time) as his funk songwriting breakthrough.

After getting the funk off the ground, discs two and three are a non-stop, relentless collection of piledriving funk grooves. These two discs will rock any party without apologies, and I don't care if you dig the funk or not. James brought on board the funkiest, tightest, and most relentless bands available (especially in the 1969-71 period) to create this incredible music that has been a huge influence on all subsequent funk, not to mention hip-hop and large chunks of the rock world. The party slows down a bit with disc four, in which you can see that James was getting past his prime, although there a few late-period surprises like "The Payback" and "Get Up Offa That Thing." By this point it was natural for James to slow down on the creation of new sounds, and focus on his current duties as a non-stop live attraction for his ravenous followers.

Another worthy part of this box set is the extensive liner notes, which include exhaustive chart listings and historical info, and an acceptable James Brown bio. There is also much good info on the more important members of JB's bands, like Bobby Byrd, Clyde Stubblefield, Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley, and the teenaged Bootsy Collins (who would later single-handedly redefine the bass guitar as an instrument in his work with Parliament/Funkadelic and as a solo artist). Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go back to getting my mind blown by this set. Like I said, I'm still digging it after all these years.

by doomsdayer520

It would seem impossible to summarize James Brown's contribution to R&B - to American music - in a mere four compact discs, but somehow Star Time does it.

This Box Set charts Brown's early rise as a hard-hitting R&B-styled vocalist ("Please Please Please," "Try Me") and shows how his bandleading skills (one can't forget inventive players like saxophonist Maceo Parker, bassist Bootsy Collins, drummer Jabo Starks, and many others) changed the face of soul and invented funk in the '60s and early '70s with impeccably timed ("Papa's Got a Brand New Bag"), highly rhythmic ("I Can't Stand It"), primal ("Licking Stick Licking Stick") hits.

The box also does a definitive programming job on Brown's later years - another plus. This is where beginners should start, but several extended versions and rarities (like "Papa," raised an octave on original release, at normal speed) make it a must for completists too.

- Don Harrison


Disc: 1
1. Please Please Please
2. Why Do You Do Me
3. Try Me
4. Tell Me What I Did Wrong
5. Bewildered
6. Good Good Lovin'
7. I'll Go Crazy
8. I Know It's True
9. (Do The) Mashed Potatoes, Pt. 1
10. Think
11. Baby, You're Right
12. Lost Someone
13. Night Train
14. I've Got Money
15. I Don't Mind (Live)
16. Prisoner Of Love
17. Devil's Den
18. Out Of The Blue
19. Out Of Sight
20. Grits
21. Maybe The Last Time
22. It's A Man's World
23. I Got You
24. Papa's Got A Brand New Bag, Pts. 1, 2 & 3
Disc: 2
1. Papa's Got A Brand New Bag, Pt. 1
2. I Got You (I Feel Good)
3. Ain't That A Groove
4. It's A Man's Man's Man's World
5. Money Won't Change You
6. Don't Be A Dropout
7. Bring It Up (Hipster's Avenue)
8. Let Yourself Go
9. Cold Sweat
10. Get It Together
11. I Can't Stand Myself (When You Touch Me), Pt. 1
12. I Got The Feelin'
13. Licking Stick-Licking Stick
14. Say It Loud-I'm Black And I'm Proud, Pt. 1
15. There Was A Time (Live)
16. Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose
17. I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door I'll Get It Myself)

Disc: 3
1. Mother Popcorn
2. Funky Drummer
3. Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine
4. Super Bad, Pts. 1 & 2
5. Talkin' Loud & Sayin' Nothing
6. Get Up, Get Into It And Get Involved
7. Soul Power, Pts. 1 & 2
8. Brother Rapp/Ain't It Funky Now (Live)
9. Hot Pants, Pt. 1
10. I'm A Greedy Man, Pt. 1
11. Make It Funky, Pt. 1
12. It's A New Day (Live)
13. I Got Ants In My Pants, Pt. 1
14. King Heroin
Disc: 4
1. There It Is, Pt. 1
2. Public Enemy #1, Pt. 1
3. Get On The Good Foot
4. I Got A Bag Of My Own
5. Doing It To Death
6. The Payback
7. Papa Don't Take No Mess, Pt. 1
8. Stoned To The Bone, Pt. 1
9. My Thang
10. Funky President (People It's Bad)
11. Hot (I Need To Be Loved, Loved, Loved)
12. Get Up Offa That Thing (Release The Pressure)
13. Body Heat, Pt. 1
14. It's Too Funky In Here
15. Rapp Payback (Where Iz Moses)
16. Unity, Pt. 1

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