The original James Brown album, Live At The Apollo is one of the most famous and often regarded as one of the best live albums ever. It was recorded in 1962 and released in 1963.
It’s very, very good but I don’t think it quite lives up to its outstanding reputation.
Let me explain why.
James Brown Live At The Apollo 1962 Overall Rating 27/30
My problem is nothing to do with the performance of James Brown or his singers, The Famous Flames and the James Brown Band.
It’s just that for me, James Brown is a funk superstar and this album is from his days as a soul and doo-wop star.
Set List Rating – 7/10
- Introduction To James Brown
- I’ll Go Crazy
- Try Me
- I Don’t Mind
- Lost Someone
- Medley: Please, Please, Please/You’ve Got The Power/I Found Someone/Why Do You Do Me/I Want You So Bad/I Love You So Bad/I Love You, Yes I Do/Strange Things Happen/Bewildered/Please, Please, Please
- Night Train
- Medley: I Found Someone/Why Do You Do Me/I Want You So Bad
- Lost Someone
- I’ll Go Crazy
I must admit that I don’t have much experience of early James Brown except for this album that I bought over twenty years ago and a few tracks from this period on a compilation.
I find it falls between two stools.
When I want live soul, I turn to Sam Cooke’s Live At The Harlem Square Club, Solomon Burke or one of the Otis Redding live albums. When I want James Brown live, I want to groove with the funk on an album like Love Power Peace.
It’s not this album’s fault… James Brown hadn’t invented funk by 1962… but the set list means that I don’t play it as often as I should given its legendary status.
PERFORMANCE Rating – 10/10
The record company wouldn’t pay for James Brown to release a live album.
So certain was he that it would help expand his audience outside of his natural crowd, he decided to finance it himself.
And he and the band play as if there life… not just money depended on this album being successful.
He was determined to show folks what they’d been missing and boy did it work. This album hit number 2 in the American album charts, a rare achievement for any pop based act let alone a black chap with so much attitude. It introduced many people in America to soul music and laid the foundations for the future soul superstars to crossover.
This is a high energy, high impact treat with Brown in commanding form and his band very tightly drilled, backing him with power, passion and precision.
James Brown and his band playing Night Train in 1963
Atmosphere & Authenticity Rating – 10/10
The audience at the Apollo theatre in Harlem, New York loved James Brown and responded eagerly to his every vocal and visual move with ecstatic screaming.
It’s rapturous as gospel meets R&B… as religion merges into sexual frenzy.
The atmosphere is white hot and few live albums can ever match what’s experienced in this recording.
Total rating for James Brown Live At The Apollo 1962 – 27/30
It’s impossible to fault this album for its performance and atmosphere. It typifies everything that is great about live albums.
But the set list – the songs and the length of the set – stop it from being the greatest live album ever in my opinion.
Let me know if you agree or disagree by leaving a comment.
What Others Say About James Brown Live At The Apollo 1962
This album is nearly always listed as one of the greatest live albums ever in any kind of live album list except those with a very narrow focus.
- DigitalDreamDoor – 1st
- ChordStrike – 1st
- Mojo – 3rd
- Stylus – 4th
- IGN – 9th
- NME – 37th
With so many people saying this is one of the best live albums ever, you need to hear it.
Buying James Brown Live At The Apollo 1962
You can buy the album or hear tasters of the songs at Amazon. If you want this album, make sure you look for the 1962 at the end as I think Brown has recorded four live albums at this venue.
To help you to find the album quickly and easily, I’ve given you the following links:
Is This The Best Live Soul Album Ever?
I’ve started a poll and I’d like to know if you think this is the best soul album ever so please vote – you can vote for up to 5 -if you’ve got specific comments to make about the list can you write them on the Best Live Soul Album article.
I’ve also created a poll to find out the best James Brown live album and because Live At the Apollo 1962 is such a big favourite, I’ve let you vote for more than one.
I’ve also included it in the poll to find the best early r&b and rock & roll live albums.
What Do You Think About James Brown Live At The Apollo 1962?
I’d like to know if you agree that this classic live album deserves its reputation as one of the best live albums ever.
Or do you think it or even James Brown are overrated?
Let me know by leaving a comment.