It’s the album that Mick Jagger has said he sometimes plays before he goes on stage, to get himself in the mood to entertain a huge crowd. It’s in the Grammy Hall of Fame, claimed a place inside the top 25 of Rolling Stone’s all-time album list and is widely regarded as one of the truly great live records. It’s James Brown‘s seminal Live At The Apollo.
Recorded at the famous and historic Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York in October 1962, the album was released some seven months later and captures the mesmerising live show of a peerless entertainer and his trusty group, the Famous Flames.
Brown had made his first singles chart appearance seven years before with the top 5 R&B hit ‘Please, Please, Please,’ but Live At The Apollo delivered his LP chart debut, entering the Billboard chart at the end of June, 1963. As well as two multi-song medleys and versions of signature numbers such as ‘I’ll Go Crazy’ and ‘Try Me,’ it included an epic, near-11-minute version of his 1961 R&B smash ‘Lost Someone.’
Brown’s reputation for dramatic and extraordinary live performances was widespread by now, and audiences leapt at the chance to own an authentic recording of one. Especially as “Mr. Please Please Please” was just enjoying his first-ever top 20 crossover pop single with the studio recording ‘Prisoner Of Love,’ which also made the R&B top ten. The album climbed to No. 2 and spent a total of 66 weeks on the chart, by some way his best-ever performance on the pop LP listings.
As Cliff White would write in a retrospective appreciation of the album in the New Musical Express in 1975: “In this one performance are all the ingredients that Brown later refined into some of the most innovatory black records of the ’60s. If you have any pretensions at all towards understanding the evolution of black music, Live At The Apollo is an essential part of your collection.
Purchase James Brown’s Live At The Apollo here.
Follow the official James Brown Best Of playlist.