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James Brown: Best of Live at the Apollo: 50th Anniversary

by Jeff Tamarkin on November 27, 2013

James Brown recorded three live albums at New York’s storied Apollo Theater within a decade, and this single-disc distillation does its best to cull the highlights: three tracks each from the first (1962), second (1967) and third (1971), plus a couple of unreleased tracks from that final run. By any measure, the 1962 show is nothing less than one of the greatest live albums ever recorded and the epitome of soul fever. It’s a must-have and while the samples offered here (“I’ll Go Crazy,” “Try Me” and “Night Train”) are representative, they’re not enough—everyone needs to own this entire album, period. Brown was already evolving from soul to funk by the follow-up (the band features saxophone giants Maceo Parker and Pee Wee Ellis), and by ‘71, that transition was complete. JB is still a force of nature on these later dates—and would remain so till his death—but nothing comes close to that first detonation of live Mr. Dynamite.

Authors: Jeff Tamarkin
Artist: James Brown
Album: Best of Live at the Apollo: 50th Anniversary
Label: Polydor