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Messing With the Blues
James Brown
Messing With the Blues
Genres: Pop, R&B
  •  Track Listings (18) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #2

Just as James Brown sometimes filled out his '60s and '70s albums with instrumental band showcases, so did he occasionally therein tip his hat to his sources. Messing With the Blues collects remakes of classic R&B tunes ...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: James Brown
Title: Messing With the Blues
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: Polygram Records
Release Date: 8/22/1995
Genres: Pop, R&B
Styles: Classic R&B, Funk, Soul
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaCD Credits: 2
UPC: 042284725828

Just as James Brown sometimes filled out his '60s and '70s albums with instrumental band showcases, so did he occasionally therein tip his hat to his sources. Messing With the Blues collects remakes of classic R&B tunes by the likes of Louis Jordan, Roy Brown and Little Willie John. This may not be major JB, but it's an entertaining set--one that reveals a side of the man that both junior funkateers and nouveau-swing followers should pick up on. --Rickey Wright

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CD Reviews

James Brown pays his dues with the blues
Laurence Upton | Wilts, UK | 01/16/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"During his lengthy career, James Brown has often paid tribute to his own musical inspirations, jump blues shouters like Wynonie Harris, Bullmoose Jackson and Roy Brown, doo-wop and rhythm and blues groups like Billy Ward and the Dominoes, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters and the Five Royales, blues performers like Memphis Slim; and above all, Louis Jordan and his Tympani Five. He also recorded a tribute album to Little Willie John immediately following his death in prison.
These and other items of homage are collected together on these two CDs and are presented in the chronological order in which James Brown would have first experienced the songs. Sandwiched between two chunks of Like It Is, Like It Was, which has James Brown rapping about the blues, the set starts with Erskine Hawkins' 1942 hit Don't Cry Baby, and ends with his own answer record to the Five Royales' Wonder Where Your Love Has Gone from 1959.
Two versions of the much covered Little Willie Littlefield classic Kansas City (originally called KC Lovin'), one from 1967 and one from 1975, clearly show the evolution of the James Brown sound.
Although entirely comprising back catalogue, it would be a mistake for any James Brown aficionado to imagine there could be nothing of interest for them as all but eight of the thirty tracks are previously unissued in the form found here. Two are in true stereo for the first time - 1961's I Love You Yes I Do and Ivory Joe Hunter's Waiting In Vain from the following year (only four of the songs on the 2CD are mono). Some are alternative takes, some are full version debuts of songs previously released in edited form or, in the case of Honky Tonk, chopped into two for both sides of a single, by the "James Brown Soul Train".
Eight tracks with a big band arranged and conducted by Sammy Lowe were recorded in a single New York day in 1964, all included here, including three Louis Jordan covers. Some of these came out on an album called Showtime, on which a fake over-excited audience had been overdubbed, and are presented for the first time in their pristine studio form. 
The notes by compiler Cliff White and Harry Weinger are detailed and clear, with recording dates and line-ups and a history of each song"
Godfather's Forefathers Honored On 2CD Set
Anthony G Pizza | FL | 04/17/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"James Brown often paused from his history-making original music to glance back at his influences: jump bandleaders like Louis Jordan, R&B crooners like Little Willie John, Ruth and Roy Brown, vocal groups like labelmates The Five Royales and Billy Ward's Dominoes.20 years of that tribute is featured on "Messing With The Blues" which features larger, more disciplined arrangements and (for JB) singing that you hear on spontaneous combustions like "Cold Sweat." Brown all-out attacks Louis Jordan's sly "Caledonia" and "Ain't Nobody Here," punctuating the end with thrilling, ear-piercing screams. He goes over-the-top, half-singing, half-crying the Dominoes' "The Bells." "Everyday I Have The Blues" and "Farther Up The Road" vocally transcend BB King's and Bobby Bland's great versions. "Talk To Me," and "Suffering With The Blues," recorded after Little Willie John's death in 1968, express John's early influence on Brown and the sorrow JB felt over his loss. (A commercial promoting that album is included for curiousity.)The song that introduces and closes this album, "Like It Is, Like It Was," explains why JB needed to cover these songs despite their lesser chart performances. Surrounded by his second great band, JB sorrowfully describes his childhood, pays tribute to modern R&B bluesmen and wishes again to touch his musical and family roots. "New York's OK," he sings, "but I want to go home!" He spends most of the songs in these discs beautifully proving and achieving that goal. A highly recommended, underrated James Brown collection."
Blues From The Godfather!
deepbluereview | SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA USA | 09/12/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Most know James Brown as the Godfather of Soul and one of the forefathers of R&B. But in the late 50's and early 60's JB took a pause for the cause and paid his respects to the likes of Memphis Slim, Louis Jordan, Chuck Willis, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Little Willie John and others that laid the foundation for what became the blues. Make no mistake about it, JB does not in anyway imitate these great performers but instead, interprets these songs with the powerful voice and antics that eventually made JB famous. In fact, while this is a tribute to the blues, the style here leans heavily toward R&B. There is some great stuff here including the heartfelt introduction "Like It Is, Like It Was" and "Somebody Done Changed The Lock On My Door". If you like the 60's Mowtown sound, and you want somewhat of a trip down memory lane, find this CD and buy it."