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It would be hard to imagine a performer expending more
energy on stage than the late James Brown (1933-2006).
This was abundantly clear when I watched his 1981 concert
at the Montreux Festival. On this occasion, his 71-minute
set included songs such as “Payback,” “Hustle (Dead on It),”
“Sex Machine,” and “Try Me,” and he was dancing and
sweating up a storm. Backed up by the JB’s and minus
the signature saxophone of Maceo Parker (1943 – ),
the large ensemble featured two trumpets, one flügelhorn,
one tenor saxophone, two guitars, two basses,
two drummers, an organ, and three female backup vocalists.
Everyone was in constant motion, with the trumpet and
flügelhorn players occasionally twirling their instruments.

Brown’s athleticism was demonstrated by his dropping
into a split while dancing, without missing a beat. This was
highly charged Soul music with a funky rhythm, and the JB’s
were amazingly tight. Unfortunately, the camerawork didn’t
cover the band adequately, which was a shame, because
it would have been nice to watch the fingerwork of those
two crucial bass players. Nevertheless, it was good enough
to get the proper vibe of the event.

This was a mixture of upbeat and downbeat,
heart-wrenching music, and the DVD illustrated why
James Brown was known as the “Godfather of Soul.”
The recorded sound was decent, but not the best in the
“Live at Montreux” series. Obviously, it’s essential viewing
for James Brown fans, and provided a nice snapshot of
him and his band, circa 1981.

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