(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.