Call it laziness, call it going back to the well or the source, or call it whatever you want. I’m going to feature James Brown once again. This time out, I’m going to feature a couple of his songs that in light of his monstrous catalogue could be considered “lesser” items. But, if you think about it, Brown’s “lesser” would be some other groups’ all-time best.
The inspiration for today’s post comes from my listening to It’s A New Day – Let A Man Come In, one of Brown’s albums from 1970. Considering I had heard much of Brown’s music in my lifetime, it was the first time I had heard the album in full. Brown wasn’t necessarily an album artist, in the way that an artist makes an album as a complete coherent artistic statement. Brown was like many artists in those days: compile a few singles with covers and some filler material and release it as an album. Of course, in that era, Brown had so many hit singles—seemingly releasing a new one every month—that he often succeeded himself in the top ten of the charts.
In today’s era when most singers and groups give you one album every couple of years or so, Brown released four different albums in 1970 alone. The other albums were Ain’t It Funky, Soul On Top, and Sex Machine. Ain’t It Funky was primarily an instrumental album that included instrumental versions of “Cold Sweat” and “Give It Up Turnit A Loose”; Soul On Top was a big band, funk and jazz vocal album with the Louis Bellson Orchestra featuring arragements by Oliver Nelson. Sex Machine was a “live” (actually featuring overdubbed crowd noise and not really a live album) named after the 1970 hit single, that didn’t actually include the hit, but a remade lengthier version of the same song.
For Funky Friday, I’m featuring the dual title tracks of It’s A New Day – Let A Man Come In. “It’s A New Day (Part 1 and 2)” is a high-energy smoker of a song. Brown’s spoken word introduction has been sampled often, which is how I first heard it. Once the band kicks in, the rhythm guitar, horns and Brown’s vocals take the front. It churns on and on in that same vein, save for a brief bridge, for almost six non-stop minutes. The song peaked at #3 on the R&B charts. Truthfully, the first time I heard this version of the song was when I was researching the Billboard R&B hits of 1970. It has become like found gold, a true surprise.
The second song to be featured is “Let A Man Come In And Do The Popcorn (Part 1 And 2).” This was Brown’s fourth song to reference the 1960’s dance the Popcorn, all released in a six-month stretch in 1969. This song was so strong and popular that both parts were released separately, and both peaked in the R&B top 10 (Part 1 made it to #2, while Part 2 got as high as #6)! This one slides and glides along and includes a Fred Wesley trombone solo in Part 2. If you love horns, you will love this. I had never heard both parts together before finding the video below.
While neither of these songs are as iconic in Brown’s career as “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag,” “Cold Sweat,” “Sex Machine” or countless other funk masterpieces, there’s no denying that there’s plenty of funk there. Funk fans aren’t cheated by either of these grooves. As James says in “It’s A New Day”: “Ain’t It Funky Now!”
I hope you enjoy these “lesser” James Brown classics and that your Friday is a great one!