JAMES BROWN — Love Power Peace: Live at the Olympia, Paris, 1971 (review)

JAMES BROWN — Love Power Peace: Live at the Olympia, Paris, 1971 album cover Live album · 1992 · Funk Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Love Power Peace is the only official live release from the Godfather of Soul with his most powerful band, the original JBs. The story of their arrival on the scene is the stuff of legend: when James Brown's band quit on him en masse in the middle of a tour, he flew in a young band from Cincinnati called the Pacemakers to replace them. The Pacemakers were rechristened as The JBs, and their work with Brown set a new standard of funkiness. Powered by the Collins brothers, Bootsy on bass and Catfish on guitar, the new group recorded a string of funk classics in the studio, including Sex Machine, Talking Loud and Saying Nothing, Soul Power, Greedy Man, and Super Bad.

The JBs were also incendiary in concert, and the show that became Love Power Peace was captured live in Paris in 1971. But the original JBs parted ways with Brown soon after, and the album was shelved. It was finally issued on CD in 1992, with the full show following on a 3-LP set in 2014. (This review is for the CD mix.) I can't help but wonder if this would have supplanted Live at the Apollo as the essential James Brown live album if it had been released in 1971, because it is an amazing performance.

The band includes the aforementioned Collins brothers, along with funky drummer Jabo Starks (sometimes spelled by second drummer Tiger Martin), backup singer Bobby Byrd, and Fred Wesley on trombone getting most of the horn solos. This band is so tight it's almost difficult to believe - they can switch tempos or stop on a dime based on JB's cues. (Indeed, there is video of this show on Youtube. When I first watched it I was astonished to see that some of the segues between songs which I was sure were edited for the CD were actually played live.) This can be heard right from the opening medley of Brother Rapp and Ain't It Funky Now, as the band adjusts the tempo seamlessly while amping the energy level ever upward. Catfish Collins's guitar solo on Ain't It Funky Now is both a delight and a preview of great moments still to come, while Bootsy lays down the groove in a way seldom heard before or since - often imitated but never duplicated.

The show includes two great ballads (Georgia On My Mind and an incredible rendition of It's A Man's World) but it's never a long wait for this band to get back to givin' up the funk. The centerpiece of the album is a hypnotic 9-minute version of Sex Machine, with Catfish Collins spiraling out line after ecstatic line on the guitar while Brown and Byrd repeat the familar "Get Up, Get On Up" refrain, Starks accents Brown's dance moves from the drums and the audience gets worked into an absolute frenzy. And that energy level never lets up, all the way through the closing medley of Super Bad, Get Up Get Into It Get Involved, and Soul Power. When the concert finally ends, the crowd erupts and chants James Brown's name, and you just might find yourself doing the same.
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