Reviews by - Lindsay Planer

Let's ring in the new this week with a tribute to the late, great Godfather of Soul and an audio/video triple threat from Motown.

James Brown -- The Singles - Volume 1: The Federal Years (1956-1960) (Hip-O Select)

He was the 'Hardest Working Man in Show Business'. Period. And he proved that to be true up until the time he passed away, this past Christmas Day -- December 25, 2006. Just weeks earlier Hip-O Select -- aka 'The Hardest Workin' Record Label' -- launched an extensive restoration of James Brown's voluminous back catalogue. They suitably commence the series with this double-disc offering. 

Gathered here for the first time are the A&B sides to every single that Brown issued during his fruitful four year ('56 - '60) tenure on the Cincinnati-based Federal Records. From his debut -- with the Top Five R&B hit "Please, Please, Please," -- the artist  immediately established his unique and passionate style of delivery. He would continue the trend for the remainder of his five-decade long, groundbreaking and genre-defining recording career.

Supported by the Famous Flames, Brown can be heard quite literally revolutionizing R&B on the uptempo rave "I Feel That Old Feeling Coming On," the frenetic doo-wop of "Can't Be The Same," the soul-stirring "Got To Cry," and the demo for “Try Me".

The accompanying 28-page booklet comes with wall-to-wall eye candy, including notes on every song, historical essays and plenty of other cool sites to see.

Point an internet browser near you to www.hip-oselect.com for more information.

The Temptations -- Get Ready: Definitive Performances 1965-1972 (UMe/Reelin' In The Years)

As exemplified by the 16 full-length performances found on this DVD, simply listening to acts such as the Temptations is only half the fun. Even though a bulk of the contents are lip-synced -- more about that in a moment -- the real treat is to bear witness to the physical grace and debonair style the Temps carried onto the stage -- be that of the Ed Sullivan Show or the Apollo Theater.

The songs we know by heart. "The Way You Do The Things You Do," "My Girl," "Get Ready," "Ain't Too Proud To Beg," "(I Know) I'm Losing You," "I Wish It Would Rain," "Cloud Nine," "Runaway Child, Running Wild," "I Can't Get Next To You," "Ball Of Confusion," "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)," and "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone" should be familiar to most everyone. On the other hand, seeing and hearing the lesser-known titles "Don’t Look Back," "You’re My Everything" and the ultra-rare (albeit mocked-up for the cameras) in-studio footage filmed by CBS News during the making of "Sorry Is A Sorry Word" are, retro-lovers manna.

Weaving together a narrative between the selections are recent interview segments with Temps co-founder Otis Williams. And another half-hour of his recollections can be found as part of the 'bonus features'. As mentioned above, the vast majority of these clips are lip-synced -- a practice common for most televised pop music appearances during the 1960s. 21st Century technology has allowed producers to replace the old soundtrack with a vocal-only a cappella audio option for nearly every selection. All the details about that, as well as a thorough band history can be found surrounded by fascinating photos, memorabilia and further liner text in the complementary 24-page booklet.

Lindsay Planer is a freelance journalist and technical producer at WBT AM/FM in Charlotte, NC. He is a regular contributor to All Music Guide, CrutchfieldAdvisor.com and Gaston Gazette. Comments and questions can be sent to <asthediscspins@earthlink.net>.


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