Thursday, January 04, 2007

James Brown - Ain't It Funky Now (Part 2) (King 6280)

Ain't It Funky Now (Part 2)

Just One More

If you're like me, you've been listening to a lot of James Brown lately. Pulling out all of this old vinyl has been a revelation, and I've been hearing things in the music I never noticed before. I love that.

B side maven that I am, Godfather's many 'Part 2"s have always been high on my list. Today's selection is a particular favorite.

The single was released in November of 1969, and spent 3 months on the charts, peaking at #3 R&B (it even made it to #21 on the Billboard Hot 100). Recorded during James' organ period, the A side features a heavy dose of JB B3, and a horn vamp 'change' (not quite a 'bridge'). This funky B side has neither one, and is kind of a unique window into Brown's creative process. The record was inexpicably left off of the otherwise excellent Star Time box set (only included as part of a live Brother Rapp medley).

Late 1969 was a time of unrest and upheaval in 'The James Brown Band', with some members already out the door, and Maceo plotting his famous 'mutiny' for early 1970. The Star Time liner notes list the personnel for the November 20th 1969 'Funky Drummer' session as follows:

Richard "Kush" Griffith - trumpet
Joe Davis - trumpet
Fred Wesley - trombone
Maceo Parker - tenor saxophone
Eldee Williams - tenor saxophone
Jimmy Nolen - guitar
Alphonso "Country" Kellum - guitar
"Sweet" Charles Sherrell - bass
Clyde Stubblefield - drums

It's probable that it was pretty much the same for our current record, with one notable exception. After starting out calling "Hey you, come here... can you play that thing?" to Maceo, James makes it a point to introduce his new drummer, John 'Jabo' Starks (fresh from Bobby Bland's outfit), asking him "Do you like it?" several times, until he agrees that it "sure is funky now..." On The LP, the song, for whatever reason, is sped up considerably by running the master tapes at a higher RPM. King had done this with the single release of Papa's Got A Brand New Bag, and would do it again a few months later with the Get Up (I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine) single, but this is the only instance I've noticed where the album version (which still clocks in at 9:26) is faster than the single. Anyway, after the portion used for our 'Part 2', JB says "Yesterday, Clyde", an apparent reference to the recently departed (but soon to return) Stubblefield.

The thing that always got me about this tune was the guitars. I mean, check out those two simple parts, locking in to create this hypnotic groove. Years ahead of his time, Brown built his music out of this kind of repetitive figure, much like the digital 'loops' people use today. If you listen closely, you can even pick out a point where the guitarists stop for like a nanosecond, signifying the beginning of another section. The discipline required to accomplish this just boggles the mind. 'Chank' Nolen was truly a master of the rhythm guitar (and one of my major heroes), who would prove Einstein's theory that 'beyond complexity lies simplicity'.

Listening to James lead the band here is so cool. I love when he says "Take it down. Let Me Concentrate!", then decides what the song needs is some trumpet from 'Kush' Griffith... "Play Kush' part Fred, so I can let Kush solo... Kush you oughta be ashamed of yourself, leave that little horn alone!" This is Godfather at his best, creating on the fly. All of his little grunts, groans, sighs and laughs on here are just soul personified, man.

He truly was Soul Brother Number One.


Blogger The Stepfather of Soul said...

Great post - I almost did a post about this tune, but I'm glad you did, and a better post at that! You are absolutely right about the guitar parts on this one, as well as the "play Kush part" remark. Outside of the J.B.'s "More Peas" it's one of my favorite JB instrumental moments.

2:17 PM  
Anonymous Steven said...

Thanks for the post and posting the song. I am a guitar teacher in Brooklyn and was looking for a JB tune to teach some students. I found your post and could not find the B side anywhhere, so thanks for posting.

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Ares Vista said...

J.B. gets DOWN on this track! I had never heard until I found it here, and I can't thank you enough. Pure soul and FUNK!

12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the single note guitar part is very hip because it's minor while everything else (horns & other guitar) is major - the classic clash of the blues.

12:15 AM  
Blogger Barry said...

Yep, it's got major second via the strummed 9th chord, minor third via the other guitar, and pure major thirds in the horns. It should be a train wreck, but of course it isn't.

9:19 AM  
Blogger jejones3141 said...

Whoa... that takes me back to summer nights as a teenager in Oklahoma listening to XERF and hearing the Howlin' Rooster advertising a record collection that included this very track, playing a portion to give us a taste of the soul to be had if we'd just send in our $$$.

3:26 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"250,000 Watts baby, heard all over the world"

11:53 PM  
Blogger Jay Lamberth said...

"250,000 Watts baby, heard all over the world"

11:54 PM  

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