James Brown - 'Live' at the Apollo (1963), 5/10

James Brown’s performance at the Apollo, funded by the godfather of soul himself, brings the stage to record rather successfully. The energy is apparent from James and from The Famous Flames, especially in moments like “I Don’t Mind” where the group works in tandem and performs a bit more unhinged and deliberately soulful than in the tighter tracks. From a technical standpoint, true to form, James Brown is consistently outstanding. His range of dynamics, monstrous peaks and low valleys, set him apart and make his voice sound otherworldly throughout the performance, especially during “Lost Someone” where he is front and center with soft ambiance backing his thundering rasp. The long-form presentation, despite the album’s short run time, works in its favor as opposed to the typical breadth seen with live shows. A song like “Lost Someone” is given proper time to sulk, sway, and develop into its best form. This is even illustrated intrinsically in the album by the first half’s lack of impressionability compared to the second half’s clearly passionate commitment to tension and release. As with many great live soul records, the audience is an active participant in the album’s presentation, the screaming at six minutes time during “Lost Someone” being the perfect example of this phenomenon; Brown is so adept at building this aforementioned tension that the audience can’t help but intercede. The only weakness of the record is the songwriting itself, which is a mix of great and forgettable. With stronger individual melodies it may have earned a spot among the greatest, but as it is, it falls short to albums with more intentional compositions. This record is about one man and his relationship with his audience. The cover says it all: The James Brown Show is all about the hardest working man in show business and his exceptional talent for live performance.