Album of the Week: James Brown’s There It Is (1972)

The Godfather of Soul has an overwhelmingly huge discography, and I’ve heard relatively few of his studio albums, live albums or compilations. The guy basically invented funk music, and many fans point to records like Sex Machine and The Payback as essential collections of his energetic funk mastery.

There It Is is a bit different. It contains some tracks that are outside the sound of James Brown’s typical oeuvre. “King Heroin” is amazingly surreal: over a laconic groove, Brown describes a dream about a “strange weird object” talking to people. Turns out it’s heroin, and Brown (as the anthropomorphic heroin) recites the dangers of the deadly drug. This one must be heard to be believed! Ultimately, James Brown’s anti-drug PSAs feel hypocritical, as he would go on to abuse PCP and other drugs for years. “Public Enemy #1” follows the example of “King Heroin”, but packs less of a punch.

There are a few classic funk cuts here, most notably “Talkin’ Loud and Saying Nothin'”, “I’m a Greedy Man” and the title track. “Who Am I” is a rare James Brown ballad, and his voice isn’t exactly tailor-made for the style. Nevertheless, I like it. The closer “Never Can Say Goodbye” has a laid-back beat similar to “King Heroin”, but there’s no proselytizing on this song. It’s a nice way to end a strong outing from the prolific James Brown.

Listen to There It Is here.

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