Today we return to the hardest working man in show business, James Brown, and his latest live album release, “Sex Machine”. Another highly regarded album from the Godfather of Soul, “Sex Machine”, a double album of “live” material, is rated as album #439 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
This album is a bit of an odd one. Not surprisingly, the gold standard for James Brown live albums will always be his release from 1963, “Live at the Apollo”. In comparison, I find this album to be much less sharp and focused, which isn’t that surprising as James and his band are all older and a bit more frazzled from the lives they respectively lead. Even with the opening track, “Sex Machine”, which is a James Brown classic, it goes on for over ten minutes, and like several of the tracks on this album, there is just too much of James echoing back and forth with his band and less actual singing and song performance. In reading about this album, I learned that the first two of the four album sides are actually studio tracks with audience sounds and reverberation overdubbed in, which makes this track even more unusual.
Sides three and four are more traditional live tracks from various performances, and songs like “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” and “Mother Popcorn” give us a better, if not perfect glimpse of James Brown at his live-performing peak. Of the several James Brown albums I have listened to during this journey, this is probably the one I am least like to put back on the turntable in the near future, but still an enjoyable and never dull ride with James, no matter what.