James Brown: The Singles Volume Six: 1969-1970 CD review (Shockhound)



(5 out of 5)

For most artists, singles collections serve one of two functions. They’re either thinly disguised greatest hits sets or they’re fodder for completists who absolutely have to have a few non-album tracks that showed up as b-sides. In the case of James Brown, the massive effort that Hip-O Select has taken in anthologizing all of the Godfather’s singles is something altogether different. Instead of releasing an album every couple of years, JB would keep his fans sated with a new, barnstorming single every few months, and, from 1967 through 1970, each new single wrote a new chapter in the history of funk. This series collects those singles in meticulously remastered form, and between Vol. 5 (released earlier this year) and this 39-track set, one can get a concise lesson in funk music mastery. 


This was the era in which James Brown was completely turning r&b music upside down, and while some of the material on Vol. 6 doesn’t quite reach the hit-making heights of the previous entry, there are really just two words one needs to know when diving into this collection: “Funky Drummer.” Without that one 1970 single, hip-hop would probably not exist as we know it today: “Funky Drummer”‘s endlessly sampled drum solo (by the one and only Clyde Stubblefield) provided the rhythmic backbone for scores of tracks from the Golden Age of Hip-Hop.  Still, the two versions of “Funky Drummer” here are far from the only reason this set is essential; the numerous mutations of “Mother Popcorn,” a rockin’ take on “Talkin’ Loud and Saying Nothin’,” and even toss-offs like “The Drunk” and “It’s Christmas Time” are effortlessly perfect. Given the set’s tight chronological limitations, it’s dizzying to imagine ’60s fans being treated to a cornucopia of material this amazing in such a short time span, and for music fans today, a collection like this provides a much more substantial introduction to the master than any decades-spanning “hits” collection. 



First appeared Dec. 20, 2008 at Shockhound.com.


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