Live at the Garden [Expanded Edition]

by: James Brown

Although the contents of this 1967 concert package have long been attributed to the Big Apple's Madison Square or Cinci's own Cincinnati Gardens -- which was only a stones-throw from King Records, Inc's Brewster Ave. digs -- neither is factually correct. Truth be told, the closest thing to a garden at the Latin Casino is that it resides in Cherry Hill, NJ -- the Garden State. It is here that Soul Brother # 1 brought the Fabulous Flames Orchestra & Revue to churn and burn their way through two sets a night between January 10 and 19, 1967. After several successful performances, Brown was so encouraged by the strength of his ensemble, the artist requested equipment be brought in to record a few sets for a potential live platter. When Live at the Garden hit the shelves -- less than five months later -- it contained highlights from the January 14 late show -- one of four sets that were documented during the run. The high-energy LP features Brown (vocals/organ), backed by an impressive incarnation of the Fabulous Flames Revue led by Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis (musical director/tenor sax/organ) and centering around the combo of Bobby Byrd (vocals), Jimmy "Chank" Nolen (guitar), Alphonso "Country" Kellum (guitar/bass), Bernard Odom (bass), John "Jabo" Starks (drums), Clyde Stubblefield (drums), and Ronald Selico (drums/bongos). The horn section consisted of Waymon Reed (trumpet), Joe Dupars (trumpet), Levi Rasbury (valve trombone/emcee), and Eldee Williams (tenor sax). A solid chunk of sonic funk opens with a powerhouse medley joining "Out of Sight" with an unrelenting reading of Brown's then-latest hit "Bring It Up." The seminal ballad "Try Me" brings the tempo down, but certainly doesn't dissipate the intensity. The excitement resumes during additional then-recent arrivals "Let Yourself Go," the five-plus-minute no-holds-barred "Hip Bag '67," as well as the two-part "Ain't That a Groove." To the obvious delight of those in attendance, Brown unleashes several back-catalog favorites, namely "Prisoner of Love," "It May Be the Last Time," "(I Got You) I Feel Good," and a raucous "Please, Please, Please." The mind boggles at what took so long for this essential piece of Brown's legacy to be properly restored. [However, the 2009 Hip-O Select "Expanded Edition" couples the original dozen-song long-player with material leftover from the same cache of tapes. There were so many excellent selections not used on Live at the Garden that producers Alan Leeds and Harry Weinger were able to re-create an entire second show -- sans the opening and between-set acts -- which is more accurately subtitled "Live at the Latin Casino." Brown's often underappreciated prowess as a formidable organist takes center stage on "The King," followed by a riveting remake of Ramsey Lewis' gospel great "Wade in the Water" and another Brown original titled "Devil's Den." There are moments of indescribable musical interaction and (at times) humor infused into the ten-plus-minute workout of "Night Train" -- incorporating a skit with brass section denizens Levi Rasbury and Eldee Williams. For his remake of the pop standard "Come Rain or Come Shine" arranger Pee Wee Ellis incorporated none other than jazz legend Ron Carter (acoustic bass), who was on a break from touring and recording with Miles Davis. Carter only performed a few songs during each show, and luckily at least one of them had the good fortune of being preserved for posterity. There are a few cuts that easily fall into the "not to be missed" category. Among them are "I Got You (I Feel Good)," a nine-minute rave-up on "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," and the similarly stretched-out "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World." Each consists of a key element in Brown's "Star Time" portion of the program and is now restored to its proper place within the showman's typical, early 1967 repertoire. As a final treat, parties securing one of the 5,000 limited-edition copies of the expanded edition of Live at the Garden will be privy to Brown and company's recording session for "Let Yourself Go." The song was tracked after-hours on January 15 at the Latin Casino once the patrons and waitstaff had gone home. An "instrumental jam" and false start precede the full-length rendering of the released version -- clocking in at over a minute longer than it would appear on Sings Raw Soul (1967)]. ~ Lindsay Planer

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