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April 06, 1995 - Image 23

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-04-06

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The MichiganDaily - Weekend etc. - Thursday,_April 6, 1995 - 11
Early Brown makes you go crazy

By Dirk Schuize
Daily Arts Writer
Never mind his recent brushes with
the law or his recent, less-than-to-
tally-satisfying output; at one time,
James Brown ruled the world. As one
of the most consistently powerful and
creative voices in music for over three
decades, Brown revolutionized the
pop and R&B worlds, exploring terri-
tory that others lacked the vision to
see, much less to mine. His
groundbreaking and earthshaking
"Live at the Apollo" LP should al-
ready be in every music fan's collec-
tion and for those wishing to dig a
little deeper, Polydor offers a wide
assortment of Brown's work on a
series of collections and reissues.
"Roots of a Revolution," a two-
CD compilation of Brown's earliest
sides, was originally issued in 1984 in
England and is now seeing light once
again in an expanded format. Though
it omits a handful of extremely im-
portant cuts ("Try Me," "Please,
Please, Please" and "Night Train,"
for example), on the justification that
they are available either on "20 Great-
est Hits" or the mammoth "Star Time,"
it is an otherwise excellent collection,
tracing Brown's development from a
Little Richard wannabe to a man with
a fully realized sound and style com-
pletely his own.
Brown first hit the R&B charts in
1956 with "Please, Please, Please,"
which reached number six failing to
pave the way for his next nine singles,
all of which failed to chart. These
early singles are good, but not par-
ticularly groundbreaking, despite the
slightly unusual balance of James'
incredibly raw lead vocal and the Fa-
mous Flames' rather mellow harmo-
nies. He and the band try a number of
different styles during these first ses-
sions, primarily based upon slower
tempos (though "I Feel That Old Feel-
ing Coming On" smokes quite a bit)
and "Roots of a Revolution" charts

them all well.
The absence of Brown's first na-
tional hit, "Try Me," and the subse-
quent single "Good Good Lovin"'
seems to throw "Roots" a few inches
off at first but as the weight of all of
the material that is included sinks in,
those absences become less impor-
tant. What is included is a total of 40
cuts of mostly prime James, working
his way around soulful ballads, ballsy
rhythm 'n' blues and a number of
songs that would reappear as hits later
("I Don't Care" became "I Got You (I
Feel Good)" while "I Don't Care"
eventually morphed into "Cold
Sweat"). "Roots of a Revolution" is
history and cannot be ignored.
Polydor's other James Brown-re-
lated compilation comes in the form
of a two-CD collection of mostly in-
strumental performances by his vari-
ous backing bands. "Funky Good
Time: The Anthology" shows just
what the J.B.'s and Maceo and the
Macks could do when given just a
basic outline by James and no time
limit.
The 30 tracks on "Funky Good
Time," recorded from 1970-1976,
are an incredible testament not only
to James's vision his band's ability
to follow that dream wherever it
lead, whether it was through the
playful "J.B. Shout" or the hard funk
of "Doing it to Death," the slightly
bizarre "I'm Payin' Taxes, What
Am I Buyin"' or the extended riffing
of "More Peas." Fred Wesley's
trombone playing is never less than
brilliant while Maceo Parker's con-
tributions on saxophone are always
amazing. When the jams are quick
and concise, like "Pass the Peas" or
"You Can Have Watergate Just
Gimme Some Bucks and I'll Be
Straight," it is the sheer power of
the band that comes through but
when they stretch it out, as on "More
Peas" and "Doing it to Death," it is
impossible not to marvel at the in-

ventiveness and control of all of the
players. "Funky Good Time" is, in-
deed, a good time but it's also a
killer documentary of a killer series
of Jaimes' bands.
Accompanying the two collec-
tions are two of Brown's seminal
works from the '70s, "Hell" and
"Get on the Good Foot," both double
albums and both appearing now con-
densed onto single discs. The title
track of "Get on the Good Foot" is a
slice of driving funk, pushed along
by a monster horn riff and James'
cries of "Hit it! Get it! Play on now!"
From there, the album moves
seamlessly through a series of loose
jams and sharper numbers, all of the
tracks segueing together courtesy
of his first real use of a major label
budget. "Cold Sweat" rocks as hard
as anything he had recorded until
this release and "I Got a Bag of My
Own" is a particularly fiery rework-
ing of his 1965 hit, "Papa's Got a
Brand New Bag."
"Hell," meanwhile, is an urban
concept album of sorts, its songs
tackling the problems of '74: as
James saw them. The lyrics, how-
ever, wind up being secondary to
the fierce playing that Brown calls
forth from his band, from the drawn-
out and perpetually funky "Papa
Don't Take No Mess" to the hot "I
Can't Stand It '76" and from the
hard "Coldblooded" to the salsa
treatment of his classic "Please,
Please, Please" (believe it or not, it
seriously moves). Even "When the
Saints Come Marching In" is re-
worked and worked over in true JB
fashion. As if that was not enough,
"Hell" features some of the best
album art ever.
No, James Brown's legacy can-
not be ignored. And even if you
could ignore it, why would you want
to? These recent reissues and an-
thologies only make it easier to ex-
perience the legend.

4Ihis is James Brown. We don't really know what he's doing, but this was the best picture we had, so like it.

Cobain's death marked the end of creative era

Uy Brian A. Gnatt
Daily Arts Writer
C One year ago today, Kurt Cobain
jt a shotgun into his mouth, pulled the
trigger, and splattered his brains all
over the wall of a room in his Seattle
home. While most people will never
understand what drove Cobain to end
his life, his death had a far greater effect
thari that of the simple destruction of a
very talented musician. By ending his
own life, Cobain shocked and horrified
the music industry, and also put an end
j an era of extreme creativity and
rection in modern music.
'Kurt Cobain and Nirvana blew up
the music world in 1991, when their
major label debut "Nevermind"
knocked Michael Jackson's "Danger-
ous" from the number one seat on
Billboard's album chart. What better
way for an unknown and scruffy band
to enter into mainstream music than by
knocking the king of pop on his ass?
irvana chased out the now despised
Nair bands-like Poison and Cinderella
- and made way for what was the
dewest craze of music and fashion: the
now despised grunge era.
Even though grunge was arguably
already dead when Kurt put that gun to
his head, the pulling of the trigger not
only killed Cobain, but killed the cre-
ativity and innovation that new bands
ke Nirvana and Pearl Jam had been
nging into the mainstream's world
of music for the past few years.
While that single gunshot brought
devastation to millions of Nirvana fans
apross the globe, it also brought dollar
signs to the eyes of A & R reps across
#he country. With Nirvana gone and
zany music lovers shattered, major
_ecord labels saw the opportunity that
opened up, and jumped at it. Their
*ssion: to fill the room at the top with
a new band that would replace Nir-
vana, and be "the next big thing."
A year later, look at the charts,
listen to the radio, or better yet, turn on
MTV. What do you see? Next to the old
and washed up bands like Van Halen
and Aerosmith are a whole new breed

of generic rip-offs. MTV and "alter-
native" radio have turned into grunge-
o-ramas, sporting the best in bland
and typical sub par music.
Bands like Bush, Collective Soul,
Candlebox and Veruca Salt have all
mastered this anonymity in their sound:
generic, plain, simple, and boring.
They've all achieved it pretty darn well,
and if that's where the pop music train
is taking us, I'm well past my stop.
People wonder why music critics are
always praising obscure bands and
trashing well marketed no-talents.
Maybe it's a trained ear. Maybe it's
some extra insight or critical ability.
Maybe it's just arrogance. But what
does someone like Bush or Collective
Soul have to offer that hasn't already
been done 100 times? A catchy riff?
Something ingenious to say? A way
to make record companies more
money?
With MTV dictating what's hot and
what's not these days, there is very
little room for new talent to break onto
the scene. MTV is obviously still on its
Nirvana kick, as it has been for the past
four years, playing the group's videos
every hour. They've probably even
planned a special "Let's Grind to Nir-
vana" party to commemorate Cobain's
death. Maybe they'll play the "Trib-
ute to Kurt Cobain" again, and culmi-
nate a weekend of fun with another
session of "Unplugged." Or maybe
they'll grace our televisions with a
bunch of new imitator and rip-off
bands, and see if we'll be able to tell
the difference. With not much more
new material coming from Cobain
himself, the network has been trying
to fill his spot with numerous other
new "talents."
The worst of them has to be the
British rock band Bush. They sound
like any typical made-for-selling-
records grunge band, no one knows
them in the U.K., and their sound and
packaging are more polished than
most other new record company ba-
bies. With the singer made to look
like a cross between Eddie Vedder

and Cobain, their "Everything Zen"
video that is an obscene copy of
Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit,"
and music that even goes as far as to
directly rip off Neil Young's "Rockin'
In the Free World," Bush is a perfect
example of one of these MTV
rock'n'roll pawns.
A friend of mine put the entire
picture into perspective for me over
spring break. We were in a record store
in Washington, D.C., and she picked
up a copy of Bush's debut, "Sixteen
Stone," and was deciding whether or
not to buy it. I usually respect her taste
in music, but I questioned why she
would ever buy anything from such a
generic and bland band as Bush, who,
in my mind anyway, blatantly rip off
Nirvana, and, if that's not bad enough,
do a terrible job of it. Her reply was that
Nirvana's deadthey're nothaving any-
more albums, so why not buy a rip-off?
It makes no sense tome. Maybe I'm
out of touch, and that's why I think Van
Halen and Sammy Hagar have no busi-
ness making new records. Maybe I
don't see any use for Collective Soul's
music except to yell "Yeah!" really
loud at the right place when their hit
"Shine" comes on the radio. Maybe I
just don't care "When the dogs begin
to smell her" if "She'll smell alone"
like Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots
whines over and over again in "Plush."
While other bands like Live and
Sheryl Crow may be a bit more inter-
esting than Michael Bolton, the public's
immediate embrace of them is unwar-
ranted. They both may write decent
songs, but are they really impressive in
the scheme of things? Or does original-
ity and creativity not have a place in
music anymore? Will people even care
about them a few years from now?
While record company big wigs
sit at their desks counting their money,
laughing at the ridiculous and no tal-
ent bands who are making them mil-
lions, you kind of have to wonder. No
matter how bad you thought '80s
bands like Poison were, they had an
image. Besides the make-up and bad

hair, they had a style. They had a
sound. Can you say that about today's
music?
Green Day, on the other hand are
doing a little bit more for the state of
music than their other platinum pals.
Like them or not, Green Day came in
and picked up some of Nirvana's lost
souls, and rightfully so. Their album
"Dookie" is a great combination of
new and old pop and punk. It even
started a resurgence of punk, that nev-
ertheless wouldn't have ever happened
if Nirvana hadn't broken the scene
wide open a few years earlier. Green
Day may simply regurgitate punk, but
they do have a style, and they do make
new and interesting music.
But how many people who are
drooling over Green Day today, own
the biggest and best punk album of all
time? The Sex Pistol's "Never Mind
the Bullocks Here's the Sex Pistols" is
one ofthe best, and also most important
records in rock'n'roll, but how many
people own it? Probably less than own
Green Day's "Dookie." Probably less
than own Candlebox, too. (Go out
and buy it, damn it!)
I'm not blaming Kurt Cobain for the
sad state of music today. However, it's
amazing that one band can bring in a
fresh and new sound, only to have it
chewed up and spit out like cud. It's
amazing that one person's innovation
can become another's ripped-off ticket
to stardom. And when that person's not
looking, their creation is destroyed, as if
the parents have gone away, and now
it's OK to have a party and wreck the
house. Cobain's gone and now the chil-
dren are running rampant.
"Monkey see, monkey do. I'drather
be dead than cool." -Kurt Cobain

GLAM SLAM
Continued from page 4
and we're like 'Oh one of our songs has
some meaning.'"'
Although Extreme are occasion-
ally a little deeper and funk-inclined
than L.A. Guns, they share a lot of the
same attitudes. Magnola joined last
year and immediately felt at home.
"The real reason they wanted me in
the band was I could cook," he laughed.
"The album was finished when Ijoined,
but we were excited when we got to-
gether and we came up with some
songs in a very short amount of time."
Extreme's slight amount of time
off after the disappointing showing of
their experimental "III Sides to Every
Story" also came at the worst possible
time. However, with a slightly more
receptive radio market the record actu-
ally debuted in the Billboard Top 40
and has gone gold in Canada and parts
of Europe.
"It's very respectable," Magnola
admitted. "But without crossing over
you can't go up the charts, but by
starting high and (because) we haven't
been around for a long time it's pretty
good."
More impressive has been the crowd

response at their club tour, where in
Detroit. fans in front had props for
every one of the new songs, according
to Magnola. But tell this to the brass at
MTV and you might get a yawn (and
why the hell would you be talking to
MTV anyway?). For them, Extreme is
only a small step above the hair bands
of the '80s and Magnola resents it.
"You better believe it," he admit-
ted. "Because I was watching this and
I was wondering what the hell was
going on, why are they lumped in with
these '80s glam type things? I don't
even want to say it in a negative way;
the only reason I would talk negatively
about it is because it's almost like you
can see some bands are there for the
wrong reasons ... to come out and to be
interviewed and speak negatively about
guys who can play instrument I don't
buy and it aggravates me very much."
So as Candlebox, Green Day, Live
and Hole become the proto '90s bands
it's left to ponder what happens to the
glory bands of the '80s. Maybe Tracii
Guns summed it up best.
"We ain't spring chickens any-
more,"he laughed. "I'm 29,I have my
pre-midlife crisis going." Then he
couldn't resist sarcastically adding one
more line.
"We rock."

I t

got
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