The James Brown biopic “Get On Up” is not only a fine movie, it relates many fascinating moments from the career of The Godfather of Soul and reminds us of incredible musicians from his band. The movie was produced by Mick Jagger, directed by Tate Taylor (who’s credits include “The Help”), and features a great performance by Chadwick Boseman who also played Jackie Robinson in the 2013 film “42”.
One entertaining moment recreated in the film is the appearance of James Brown and the Famous Flames in the 1965 Frankie Avalon movie “Ski Party”. “I Got You (I Feel Good)” was the highest charting single of Brown’s career.
The film also recreates Brown’s performance at the Teenage Awards Music International (TAMI) Show in 1964. Here is Brown performing “Please, Please, Please”, his first major release from 1956. The Rolling Stones had to follow this performance as the closing act at the TAMI Show.
Among the musicians from Brown’s band were sax player Maceo Parker, trombonist Fred Wesley, and bassist Bootsy Collins. Parker has had a long and varied musical career, recording 11 solo albums and playing with Parliament Funkadelic, Prince and dozens of other top rock, soul and jazz artists. In this video, after a couple of minutes of band intros Parker brings the funk (and that’s Fred Wesley, a man with his own titanic musical career, on trombone).
Bootsy Collins’ stint with Brown was brief, but came at the time of Brown’s turn from soul to funk. Collins joined Parker and Wesley as members of Parliament Funkadelic in the 1970’s and became a key member of the band. Here’s a clip of Bootsy, all decked out P-funk style, on his tune “Stretchin’ Out” with David Sanborn jumping in on sax.
Rolling Stone gave a rare 4-star review to “Most Messed Up” by Old 97’s. The band formed in Dallas in 1993 (so you figure out the meaning of “Old 97’s”) and are fronted by singer, guitarist and songwriter Rhett Miller. Their first record was released in 1994, and their latest just came out last week.
Listen to “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive” from “Most Messed Up”, and then try out “Question” from their 2001 album “Satellite Rides”. The older track was featured on an episode of the TV series “Scrubs”, a show noted for integrating a lot of music, new and old.
Whenever alternative country is mentioned, we can’t help but think of our all time favorite, Cracker. The band was formed in 1991 by David Lowery and Johnny Hickman shortly after Lowery’s former band, Camper Van Beethoven, broke up.
Cracker hit it big with the song “Low” from their second album “Kerosene Hat”. Many of the band’s songs show a great sense of humor, like Old 97’s, none of them more than “Mr. Wrong” from their eponymous first album.
Cracker is still touring, and sometimes Lowery reunites Camper Van Beethoven for a double bill.
Some famous female vocalists have new music out, and a great new singer has arrived on the scene.
Rosanne Cash, eldest daughter of Johnny and superstar in her own right, released “The River and the Thread” in January. The album has received its share of good reviews, and the first track is “A Feather’s Not a Bird”. The album’s producer is Rosanne’s husband John Leventhal, who also co-wrote all the songs and plays lead guitar on this performance. If you like the video below, check out this studio performance of “The Long Way Home” with John backing Rosanne on acoustic guitar.
Perhaps the best Rock & Roll frontwoman ever is Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders. Almost 35 years after “Brass in Pocket” launched the band’s career, Chrissie is about to release her first solo album. “Stockholm” is due out in June, and the first single “Dark Sunglasses” has been released. Unfortunately, the video shows us no Chrissie, just a bunch of folks wearing – you guessed it. If you want to see Chrissie front the Pretenders in their heyday, 30 years ago, check out the other video too. The video quality isn’t great, but don’t you wish you’d been there?
Back in October we wrote about Lake Street Dive covering a Jackson Five tune. The band is now out with a new full-length LP “Bad Self Portraits” that is fresh and absolutely delightful from start to finish. The band’s lead singer, Rachel Price, has a great voice and a unique style that propels the band’s range of jazz, soul and R&B tunes. Here is the title track from the new album, and “You Go Down Smooth”.
A favorite blog of ours is pH Balanced, written by Jess Phaneuf, a DJ at mvyradio in Martha’s Vineyard. This week we pass along a few of her recommendations from the past few weeks. And by the way, you can tune in to mvyradio on the internet. There’s a nice iTunes link on their website, and it’s excellent listening all around.
St. Paul & The Broken Bones is a tight soul band from Alabama, fronted by Paul Janeway. Their debut release “Half the City” is out, and the video for “Call Me” introduces you to this excellent, though unlikely looking outfit. I hope Paul will be flattered by the inevitable comparison to a certain Blues Brother.
Appearing recently on The Conan O’Brian Show was Jamestown Revival performing “California (Cast Iron Soul)”. The song appears on “The California EP” as well as on the full length album “Utah”, named for the location of the mountain cabin where the songs were recorded. Jamestown Revival is the duo of small-town Texas high school friends Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance. Before trekking to Austin and L.A. to craft their sound, both had done solo work, and Clay had a few songs picked up by TV Shows ranging from “The Real World” to “Sons of Anarchy”.
Sam Roberts Band has just released the album “Lo-Fantasy” and the single “We’re All In This Together”. Sam Roberts has been well known in Canada for over a decade, winning a number of Juno Awards – Canada’s Grammys – along the way. His first hit single “Brother Down” came out in 2002, released on his first EP “The Inhuman Condition”.
Broken Bells is a collaboration between Brian Joseph Burton (aka Danger Mouse), one of this century’s best producers, and James Mercer, frontman for indie favorite The Shins. Their second full album together, “After the Disco”, is due to be released in early February 2014, but the track “Holding on for Life” is already out. A few versions of the tune can be viewed on YouTube, including this spare live version. But the spacey (literally) official video lets you hear the more layered album version.
The Shins have been around since 1996 and got a big boost when their song “New Slang” was featured in the movie “Garden State”. Below is a clip from the movie with Natalie Portman giving Zach Braff a listen, followed by the full album version of the song.
Over the last decade Danger Mouse has produced albums for the Black Keys, Norah Jones, Beck, and Gorillaz, and he is currently working on U2’s upcoming release. He’s probably most well known for being half of Gnarls Barkley opposite CeeLo Green. “Crazy” was the 2006 mega-hit from the duo’s first album “St. Elsewhere”. Below are two versions of the song, one featuring CeeLo and Danger Mouse in a live studio setting, and the other featuring Prince on guitar.