Opening with the introduction heard round the world by Fats Gonder, the shouts and hollering within the first moments seem to far exceed the 1,500 venue cap up on 125th in Harlem. While Brown himself doesn’t make an appearance until the second track, “Opening Fanfare” is the lining of the fuse-lit blasting cap for the TNT that becomes laid down.
When Brown’s vocals become the main instrument, the crowd cheers are almost welcoming to a king of show business, and the backing vocals coming The Famous Flames are almost angelic on Earth. Whether Bobby Byrd or Bobby Bennett, Lloyd Stallworth also makes up the backing vocals, and for the 12 other instrumentalists that Brown recruits, this band is on a conquest of sound.
Fascinating for the time and for the progression even as half a century later. The stereo recording splits the delivery of vocalists and is able to add depth to the overall experience of the show. Slower and timely manners like “Try Me” are staples of the record, but when Brown fills the atmosphere with more expedient ventures like “Think,” there is nothing standing in his way.
An early precursor to jazz fusion, James Brown Live At The Apollo, 1962, seems to transpose genre through each track and in a manner of 10 minutes Brown & The Famous Flames touch the smooth as velvet and the heraldry as lions. The production here is showering in moments like “Lost Someone” where the impressive and lively percussion from Clayton Fillyau or the subtle organ from Lucas Gonder add diversity to the performance.
As Brown charms with his lyrical display, “I’ll love you tomorrow like I love you today. I’m so weak, don’t take my heart away. Come on, come on, gee whiz I love you.” He continues on after a women shrieks but never breaks his concentration, he illustrates, “And don’t go to strangers, come on home to me. Come on home to me.”
With the acoustics of the recording from The Apollo, the crowd screams are almost like an additional instrument from Brown that can pursue this twisted sensibility of a real musical sensation. Even his growls and grunts which could be animalistic, are so approachable and delightful to the ears.
But when the final moments spring onto Brown, he goes not quietly but more as if this is the last song he will ever perform. The blistering punches of “Night Train” are god-level and from a show tune standard, live amongst the chiseled marble statues for sound. All board onto the B line straight from Central Park up to 125th Street where Brown has a permanent residency.