|First posted 10/24/2011; updated 12/1/2020.|
Live at the Apollo
Recorded: October 24, 1962
Released: May 1963
Charted: June 29, 1963
Peak: 2 US
Sales (in millions): 1.0
Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.
Note: chart peaks are for studio versions.
Total Running Time: 27:23
4.510 out of 5.00 (average of 24 ratings)
Quotable: “There is no more exciting document of live performance in the history of R&B.” – Barney Hoskyns, Amazon.com
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
“There is no more exciting document of live performance in the history of R&B.” AZ James Brown is now widely acclaimed as “The Godfather of Soul,” but at the time of this album’s release, he was “still widely unknown outside the African-American community.” JD On top of that, his studio albums failed to do “justice to his dynamic performance style.” NRR Brown asked his record label to record one of his shows. When they refused, he bankrolled the project himself, TL knowing “his live performances contained electricity unable to be reproduced in the studio.” RV
“By the end of these thirty-two minutes, no one will doubt that James really was the hardest working man in show business (and this without even seeing him dance!).” AMG The setting was Harlem’s Apollo Theater, “the ultimate shrine of black American music.” AZ “The Apollo audience, hysterical with adulation, plays as big a part in Live at the Apollo as Brown himself.” AZ
“Brown puts on a flawless show of dynamism that lost nothing in the transfer to vinyl.” TL The band “is in stellar form, tight as a fist (especially the horn section) and supporting their leader with both strength and subtlety,” AMG moving “like a single organism, with the horns ‘answering’ Brown’s guttural moans and bone-rattling wails, the bass and the rhythm guitar prompting an impossible-to resist swaying of the hips, and the tight snare drum hits on two and four sweeping us up, hypnotizing us, and virtually reprogramming our heartbeats in time with Brown’s.” JD Through it all, though, “Brown is truly the star of this show.” AMG “Live at the Apollo left no doubt in anyone’s mind that he was a live performer without peer, and that his talent could communicate just as strongly on tape as in person.” AMG
Apollo “predates the brittle but powerful funk grooves which would later make Brown the most sampled man in show business and focuses on his earlier and (relatively) more conventional hits, the building blocks of his pioneering sound are all here in high-octane live versions.” AMG
“Deftly swinging from up-tempo grooves to romantic ballads (albeit delivered with Brown’s typically abundant enthusiasm),” JD Apollo “captures the sound of Brown baring his soul with an almost unbearable intensity, which drives the audience into a manic chorus of shouts and screams.” AMG
“The album seems like one continuous medley – Brown follows hit after hit with staggering verve.” RV “The set contains only six full songs, and most of those clock in at under two minutes. The entire performance is linked by instrumental bridges as the band builds up to the big medley – a six-minute merger of bits and pieces…then hurtles through the frantic farewell of Night Train.” JD
“Some listeners have suggested that the length of the recording and the effect of alternating the pounding, up-tempo grooves with the seductive slow jams evokes an expert session of lovemaking…One thing is for sure: The tone of the banter between Brown and the audience (especially the women) is positively orgasmic at times, as during the languorous, drawn-out version of Lost Someone.” JD “The song builds with intensity until the bottom drops, a…move that sends the audience into hysterics.” RV and “is one of the most heart-stopping moments in soul.” AZ
“Only a few thousand copies of the original were pressed, but demand became so great (it ultimately sold well over a million) that DJs played the album in its entirety.” TL It ended up on the Billboard charts for more than a year, peaking at #2 and becoming “a watershed album, both for James Brown and for the burgeoning soul music movement.” AMG It has also gone “down in history as one of the best live albums ever made.” JD
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