I Got the Feelin’: James Brown in the 60s
A few weeks ago, auction house Christie’s sold a wild assortment of stuff — from used cosmetics to a Hammond organ and red-leather sofa — from the home of James Brown. More than a few bidders chose from an assortment of jumpsuits worn by the Godfather, and if they want to put them on and play JB, a few new DVDs can enable the fantasy: I Got the Feelin’: James Brown in the 60s (Shout! Factory) gathers three DVDs of live footage from 1968 and is anchored by a documentary about his historic Boston show on the day after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination — a concert many credit with helping to keep nationwide riots from taking hold there. A tad less historic but more fitting for the auction’s wardrobe selection, Double Dynamite (Charly) arrives later this month with two concerts from the ‘80s — one stadium show and one at Studio 54.
Live in London and Paris, 1967 / Love Man
(Stax / Encore)
Another live set from a soul legend coming this month captures Otis Redding Live in London and Paris, 1967 (Stax). Never issued before as a whole, it’s Grade-A Otis, even if most songs appear twice (the two concerts were nearly identical), making it best suited for die-hard fans.
Less scholarly Otisites will find more varied listening pleasure in Love Man, a 1969 release that, perhaps due to its dearth of big hits, has been out of print for a while. It’s back now, thanks to Rhino sub-label Encore, “The Back in Print Imprint.” Described by Rhino as a place quality albums can bask once more in the CD sun before the digital-only reissue trend consumes them, Encore titles contain no bonus tracks. Otis is joined on the label by two fine albums by Aretha Franklin, Aretha Arrives (1967) and Let Me in Your Life (1974), the latter featuring a fantastic take on Stevie Wonder’s “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do).” Get ’em before it’s MP3 or nothing.
You Can Fly on My Aeroplane
A couple of great soul reissues deserve notice for digging up artists who are nearly or completely unknown.
The truly eclectic Numero Group label offers You Can Fly on My Aeroplane by Wee, aka Norman Whiteside. Blissed-out and full of richly synthetic keyboard sounds, the album sometimes makes Whiteside sound like a more laid-back cousin of Shuggie Otis. Judging from the thorough liner notes, the laid-back part was illusory — any biography that says a man was “sticking to misdemeanors when possible” guarantees excitement — but this jazzy gem still makes great, if occasionally quirky, sunny Sunday morning listening. Numero also offers Brotherman, a soundtrack to a Blaxploitation film that never existed: It seems producers hired Chicago group the Final Solution to make the record before the script was even finished. It ain’t Shaft or Superfly, but it will sit comfortably alongside them in the CD changer.
The Birmingham Sound: The Soul of Neal Hemphill, Vol. 2
Another indie label, Rabbit Factory, digs deep with The Birmingham Sound: The Soul of Neal Hemphill, Vol. 2. Named for a plumber who opened an Alabama recording studio in the basement below his office, it evidently captures only a slice of the array (from country to garage acts) of the genres Hemphill recorded, but it offers a solid regional tang nonetheless, starting with a track that essentially declares rock ’n’ roll dead at soul’s hands, then strutting from there through tracks by Chuck Mitchell, Frederick Knight, and Ralph “Soul” Jackson.
Hopefully Vol. 2 of Birmingham will get a toehold before next month, when the hot city-centric title for soulsters will be the four-disc box Love Train: The Sound of Philadelphia (Legacy), which was overseen by Gamble & Huff themselves and precedes a PBS special that will have nostalgists salivating for their Delfonics and Stylistics faves. Then again, most of the people in the market for Birmingham probably own all of Philly’s hits already, on both CD and carefully inventoried, vintage 45s. •