Song Of The Day 4/14/2014: James Brown - "Night Train"

It's Alive: I'd been reading about James Brown's Live At the Apollo since I was 10, in any of the many comprehensive album guides I collected through my youth and young adulthood: The Rolling Stone Record Guide, The Mojo Collection, The All-Music Guide to Soul, The Zagat Guide to Albums to Eat To, Chilton's Total Car Repair Manual for the Toyota Camry (1997-2001). I never would have gotten its importance until I'd lived a little while, though. It's not something I would have understood at 10. It's barely a half hour long, and when I was younger I would have snottily whined about how all my albums needed to be at least 40 minutes in length. How could I take an album that barely exceeds the length of an episode of Charles in Charge to carry sufficient heft and merit to be taken seriously?

So as you can see, sometimes even those of us who have written about music three-quarters of our lives may have been, at one distant time, utterly stupid kids. It's not how long Live At the Apollo is; it's how much James Brown packed into small spaces, how he kept it lean but threw everything he had into tough, bruising punches. It's a case study in set-up, tension, escalation and release. It may be only be a half hour, but Live At the Apollo will put you through a hell of a trip and might even mess you up, for the better. This one sliver called "Night Train" won't even begin to describe it. Whatever your case was, it's now closed.

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