Music Reviews

The J.B.’s Reunion

Bring the Funk On Down


There is no room for debate: these brothers invented the funk. As soon as “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” hit the airwaves, the face of music changed forever. Yes, I know it was the genius of James Brown that did it, but only the fellow brilliance of artists like Maceo Parker, Pee Wee Ellis, Fred Wesley, Bootsy Collins, et al., could make it possible for that genius to excel.

And, even today, we still fly to such classics as “Pass The Peas,” “Gimme Some More,” “Givin’ Up Food For Funk,” “Damn Right I Am Somebody,” “Control (People Go Where We Send You),” and “(It’s Not the Express) It’s the J.B.’s Monaurail.” Those are just some of the jams that are attributed to The J.B.s under their many guises (Maceo and the Macks, The James Brown Soul Train, The First Family, The Last Word) and doesn’t even include the Soul Brother No. 1’s hits. God, those were great times…

…that, unfortunately, just cannot be revisited. Though the reunion does try. Everybody’s back – the aforementioned, Bobby Byrd, Lester Jordan, Jabo Starks, etc. – and they put together a mighty fine album. Bring the Funk On Down is fun and spirited and will definitely get you moving. But, when you have hits of the magnitude that the James Brown family had, it’s nearly impossible to recapture the magic. There was a rawness and vitality to that classic music (hell, those were live takes!) that cannot be duplicated. Some 30 years later, the music here seems like only a rehash, an attempt to once again bask in a bygone glory. Perhaps, if Pee Wee and the crew ever decide to do this again, they should attempt to work with one of the younger cats, an Ali Shaheed Muhammad or Amir Thompson, to give their music the vitality and relevance it once had.

Instinct Records:

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