BY FRED MILLS
Good-GAWD! When liner notes refer to “electrifying a crazed Parisian audience” you might be inclined to roll your eyes and sigh, “journalistic hype…”—and then you hear this concert from March 8, 1971 and find yourself electrified yourself. From the J.B.’s intro instrumental to herald Brown’s entrance as he slides stealthily into “Brother Rapp” through the closing notes of the thumping, funking, pounding “Soul Power” that finds Brown vamping manically while organist Bobby Byrd chants the title over and over, this 3-LP set is the sound of artist, band and crowd being hotwired together. Watch the sparks fly.
What Sundazed has done is pull together the mixdown reels of the Paris show (held at the fabled Olympia Theatre, it was one of six concerts done over the course of three days; one of them was also filmed for a French TV special) and presented them on vinyl exactly as the Godfather of Soul himself originally planned, the LP trio respectively subtitled “Love,” “Power” and “Peace.” As liner notesman (and Brown’s tour director during the early ‘70s) Alan Leeds writes, “Brown was the hottest ticket in Paris. Determined to leave a mark, James had hired some local horn and string players to flesh out his production numbers… Brown was so attached to the revue’s smooth pacing that he envisioned a unique three-record album containing the entire concert.”
‘Twas not to be. Following a series of technical and personnel issues (all detailed in the liners) the proposed album was shelved. Portions of it eventually turned up in remixed form on a ’92 CD, but this is the first time it’s seen a complete, official airing. And what an airing it is. There are star turns by both Bobby Byrd (he rips through a lively version of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours”) and backing singer Vicki Anderson (her strings-laden cover of the Beatles’ “Yesterday,” though slowing the momentum of the concert, is deeply affecting), but of course the reason we’re here is for JB himself, and he seems to draw from deep well after deep well of energy. Not a track here disappoints, with “Sex Machine” in particular blowing the roof off the Olympia (the intro, in which he counts off for the band, is priceless) and putting into full relief exactly what a brilliant bandleader Brown was—and what a brilliant band the J.B.’s were. Another high point comes with “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” in which the entire first half of the number is devoted to some of the most primal hollers ‘n’ yelps ever put on wax.
No slight to the legendary, earlier Live at the Apollo album, as it is an acknowledged classic. But if you want to hear a later era, and what it felt like to be in a Brown audience in the early ‘70s, Love*Power*Peace is your front row ticket. Electrified? Damn straight. Feeling a little bit crazed now, too…
DOWNLOAD: “Ain’t It Funky Now,” “Sex Machine,” “Super Bad,” “Soul Power”