Imitation of Live – Dave’s Review

On first listen James Brown’s 1970 album Sex Machine seems to be a live album, with introductions before some songs and interaction with the audience. However, many of the songs are actually recorded in the studio and overdubbed with canned applause. Sadly this is very noticeable and gives the album an awkward feel.

The record opens with an eleven minute version of Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine, the length spoiling an otherwise great song. When Brown asks “shall I go to the bridge?”, he seems to take forever to go, name-dropping every city in America first. And after all that, if you haven’t already skipped to the next track, they don’t even go to the bridge. Perhaps this would be good live, but on the record it fails to work. Completing side one, Brother Rapp is another overly long song that focusses on a repeating rythym.

The rest of the album has a mix of styles. I Got The Feelin’ injects an exciting, short burst of energy. This energy is carried into the next song Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose: trumpets blasting and Brown screaming wildly. Side three continues this dancey and energetic style but turns into a more jazzy, laid back groove, with Lowland Popcorn and Spinning Wheel sounding like elevator-music.

One thing I think the album does really well is that many songs instantly snatch the attention away from the previous track, especially on side four. There Was A Time quickly shifts the grand If I Ruled The World into a fast paced groove, only for It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World to take us back. I Can’t Stand Myself (When You Touch Me) does this again to great effect before another smooth transition into the final track Mother Popcorn.

★★★☆☆

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