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Roots of a Revolution
James Brown
Roots of a Revolution
Genres: Pop, R&B
  •  Track Listings (21) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (20) - Disc #2

This is a 2 CD collection of James Brown's early days. He hasn't found the style that would make him the Funkmaster, but he's looking for it awfully hard. He can't quite shake that 1950s feel; the saxes yaketty-yak instead...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: James Brown
Title: Roots of a Revolution
Members Wishing: 3
Total Copies: 0
Label: Polygram Records
Release Date: 2/28/1995
Genres: Pop, R&B
Styles: Classic R&B, Funk, Soul
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaCD Credits: 2
UPC: 042281730429

This is a 2 CD collection of James Brown's early days. He hasn't found the style that would make him the Funkmaster, but he's looking for it awfully hard. He can't quite shake that 1950s feel; the saxes yaketty-yak instead of blurt and growl, and many of his vocals retain a crooner's feel. Some later hits show up in rudimentary formations--"I Found You" will become "I Feel Good"--and some, like the intro to "And I Do Just What I Want," are fully mature statements. This collection is recommended, but not fully essential. --Robert Gordon

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CD Reviews

(5 out of 5 stars)

"It is hard to think of a better conceived and more fully realized collection than this. Brown's legacy is SO deep that even his fabled 4 disc boxed set "Star Time" can not hold it all, and obviously a mere single disc collection is completely inadequate for all but the dreadful "hits only" crowd. This is where "Roots" comes in, the perfect opening chapter to Brown's career, before he hit stardom but just as it was within his grasp.To start with the packaging is stellar with fantastic liner notes by Brown-phile Cliff White (the best note writer in the biz) that tell in great depth of Brown's early days, recording sessions, label conflicts, and tours, as well as examining the music with a keen ear. They make for repeated reading and are some of the most informative liner notes to be found - worthy of the subject he writes about.As for the music, it is revelatory. Brown's forays into screaming R&B, howling blues, manic rock 'n' roll, even Coasters-like novelty are all here, like raw iron-ore waiting to be mined by the fortunate purchaser of this double-disc set. It marks the evolution of not only a future star, but encompasses the surrounding musical landscape of the 50's and early 60's in a dazzling way. Though JB was searching for a hit in every conceivable style, what perhaps even he didn't realize at the time was that he was busy building his OWN style by adapting bits and pieces of everything he heard and sang. With each new cut he takes another step towards the Brown that would emerge with "Try Me" in late '58, the soul of the 60's to follow, and the funk metamorphosis that he emerged with in the mid-60's. Unlike some collections which have you reaching for only a few choice cuts after awhile, this is meant to be taken as a whole, and continues to astonish with each full listen.Now this is not necessarily the first Brown collection to get, unless your passion is for 50's R&B in general. In fact this assumes you'll already have an adaquate Brown primer in your collection, as it leaves off his few hits from this era (those being "Please, Please, Please," "Try Me", "Good, Good Lovin", "I'll Go Crazy" and "Night Train", which are all available on the two-disc "JB40", the best basic career retrospecitive, as well as being found on the boxed set). But knowing that his early, pre-hit years were sure to be overlooked on collections such as those, they geared this to cover '56-'64 as a complement to the bigger, more mainstream packages. As a result, the bulk of this set are songs you'd go crazy trying to find elsewhere, never mind with such attention to detail as shown here.What many people scanning the track listing and seeing mostly obscure titles might fail to realize is that the entire point of this set is to examine how such a revolutionary singer/songwriter like Brown could have evolved. The very nature of these recordings, the fact that most of them were NOT hits, is what makes this indispensible and such a joy to discover. This purposefully is not the James you know, but rather the seeds from which he grew.It is the musical progression here which is startling, and no less exciting to hear than Elvis Presley's Sun material, Sam Cooke with the Soul Stirrers, or the Beatles as they tore up Hamburg, Germany. All are vital documents of music on the brink of something immense, yet still uncertain, even by the participants. Get this before some dolt in marketing decides nobody wants to hear Brown doing anything but "I Got You" for the zillionth time and yanks this off the market."
It's A Scream To Hear James Brown Find His Voice
Anthony G Pizza | FL | 03/13/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This set collects James Brown's first recordings on the King/Federal label, years before finding his history-making sound. You'll hear JB and his first collaborators (Jimmy Nolen, Nash Knox, longtime foil Bobby Byrd, girlfriend Bea Ford and backup singer Tammi Montgomery, later Terrell), seek a new R&B form from what the genre's giants left.Brown owed much to Little Richard (whose honking sax/piano madness colors song like "Chonnie-On-Chon" and "I Feel That Old Feeling.") Bandleader Louis Jordan is acknowledged (poorly) on "That Dood It" and "Doodle Bug," while JB and friends try on straight blues ("Why Does Everything Happen To Me"), and some Ike & Tina, Shirley & Lee style balladry ("You Got The Power"). JB zeroes in by disc two, creating his intense ballad style on "Prisoner of Love" and the still-thrilling "Lost Someone," while incorporating gospel stylings into "Oh Baby Don't You Weep." While you hear fragments of future JB classics throughout, Polydor doesn't reward you with those finished hits (probably figuring that JB fans owning this set already owned them). Even so, "Roots of A Revolution" lives up to its title, being an curious first step on James Brown's 40-year musical journey. Recommended, especially for the accompanying booklet included in first pressings."
The set that started me buying James Brown
Robert Alan Bryan | Waldorf, Maryland USA | 12/28/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I found this slightly used at a wonderful CD store that is now gone.

I can't explain why I bought it but at the time it seemed like a good idea.

I later found out that this set is highly regarded and of course it is now out of print and pretty rare.

That being said it started me being a fan of James Brown. This set led to buy The CD of JB 1 and The CD of JB 2 (both mentioed in the liner notes).

After that I didn't get much until the late 90s and much more due to remastered and re-issued compilations like "Motherlode" and "In A Jungle Groove". Those comps got high marks in mags like "Q" and Uncut so I went for them.

Now I have those sets and many others. All of this great music and I listen to it often; really I do. James Brown's music holds up well and a lot of the CDs are great for 'driving music' on trips.

I even bought James Brown's Funky People (3 volumes) and a great set: The JB's Funky Good Time: The Anthology. That set is even better than the quite rare Soul Pride: The Instrumentals (I now have that set also!).

So What should I say about Roots of a Revolution? This is down home music. These songs cook up a mood. I have been playing James Brown all week at work (this is Dec 28 and he died on Dec 25th.) I am playing it as a tribute, but I wouldn't play anything I didn't like.

Many people passing my desk have said they like what they have heard.

I have played the Star Time box; Soul on Top; Live at the Apollo; Motherlode and Soul Pride along with Roots.

I am almost 47 so I started hearing James as he was entering his "Say It Loud" phase. He was a already an icon when I first saw him on TV.

A lot of his early 70s funk I never heard because I was more into Prog rock (Yes, ELP, Crimson). I still love those bands but I am glad I added James Brown to my collection.

Roots of a Revolution is a rare compilation. It's not selling you great hits. It's selling you history. The music is a historical journey.

The liner notes are also worth reading. Try to find this and enjoy."