This is a reissue of the classic James Brown come back album, the Payback. I got it as a gift a few years ago now, I don’t remember when exactly. It’s been a while. It’s one of those classics I had wanted for a long time so it was more than a welcome addition to my collections.
So, when this album came out James Brown was washed up and yesterday’s news. He was your Grandpa’s music man. That sounds kind of crazy but that is because the past has a way of compressing. James Brown’s first album came out in 1959 and this was 1973. He was 40 years old. His soul music was old news to a lot of people and again, that might sound crazy but you know what, think of your favorite band in 2001 and think if you are still excited for their new releases. Now ask yourself if people 15 years younger than you are excited about their new releases. This was the man’s 40th album and not many people think of an artist’s 40th album as their best. Or mattering. So this record was made to be a soundtrack for a blaxploitation film because that is what honestly every great black recording artist was doing in the early 70’s. It was rejected for being the same old James Brown crap. Or Stuff. Or whatever, no one can agree because the producers of the film were rightly embarrassed later for rejecting this. The truth is this album is ridiculously funky and is considered a landmark album in the genre. More importantly, a lot of people think it’s James Brown’s best work ever. Which is mind boggling unless you are familiar with the man. He was a tyrant on stage. Those with even a passing knowledge of the man know he had one of the best ears in all of music. He would famously fine his band for missed notes in live performances, famously punished them for trying to make name for themselves, and he never seemed to miss anything. It sounds like he would have been hell to work with but it meant he made some of the tightest, most finely crafted music there was. So as a man with almost no equal, of course he was up to the task of creating a whole new sound for himself and his band for the 70’s. This album does feel to me a lot like a Blaxploitation soundtrack still, the way it moves from mood to mood, it gives you the feeling of a story without actually telling it. Of course, the title track is the big hit here and it’s fantastic but really every track on here is a treasure. It takes a lot for me to say that with an album that goes almost 80 minutes and only has 8 songs but really they are all fantastic.