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Album Review: James Brown – Get On Up – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

2 min read

The Godfather of Soul. The hardest working man in show business. One of the greatest entertainers in history. Somehow these titles aren’t quite enough to sum up James Brown.

Brown may have been a dynamite, bona fide institution of funk, but he has left a immeasurable, enduring mark on popular music. Performers like Michael Jackson, Rick James and Prince wouldn’t even exist without Brown’s provocative songs, jaw-dropping yet effortless dance moves, a fiery, raucous rasp that ripped open the soul and supreme showmanship.

James Brown Get on UpEight years after his passing, the tireless entertainer is immortalised in the biopic ‘Get On Up’.

The soundtrack to the film about Brown’s tumultuous but fascinating life has the earlier traditional yet ballsy rock n’rollers like Out Of Sight and Caldonia. Of course, the essential hits like the swinging I Got You (I Feel Good) and the gritty, Grammy-winning Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag are here to get hips shaking and bodies grooving. There are also tracks from the late 1960s as Brown’s music turned even grittier and funkier, with Cold Sweat, Mother Popcorn (with the latter mixing sung and spoken parts) and the rousing African-American pride anthem Say It Loud-I’m Black And I’m Proud.

Brown’s 1970s output is limited to the spiteful call-and-response The Payback and the disco-like contagious comeback single Get Up Offa That Thing (made famous by Whoopi Goldberg, who hilariously recreated Brown’s stage act in ‘Sister Act 2’)

However, it is the spectacular live performances (at venues like the famous Apollo Theater) that show off the best of Brown. Recordings are taken between 1962 to 1971, but differences in quality are minimal.

A clear highlight is Please Please Please (represented on the soundtrack through its studio version and incendiary, far-superior 1966 live rendition), which has gone down in music history for Brown’s out-of-control screeching and famous fake-fainting-and-cape routine. A 1971 performance of the strut-worthy Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine at Paris’ Olympia is even more electrifying than the original.

One minor complaint is that some tracks are cut short due to time constraints, including a 1966 version of the cerebral slow burner It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World and the spicy 1968 medley of I Got The Feelin’ (which the Jackson 5 performed during their Motown audition that same year) and I Can’t Stand Myself (When You Touch Me).

‘Get On Up’ is named after a line taken from Get Up… and epitomises Brown’s attitude to everything: no matter how many times he got brought down, he got back up. Put the soundtrack on in the cinema, in the living room or at a party, and it will be impossible not to get up too. James Brown’s reputation as a consummate entertainer will forever live on, as long as people can still groove.