James Brown - Live at Montreux 1981 DVD Review
by Patrick Muldowney
Eagle Rock Media has created an incredible collection of live performances from many of the great musical artists of the past fifty years. The packaging of each of these is wonderful, providing both a product for the DVD player and the personal stereo. The visual/audio experience is termed a "collectors' edition", which is accurate. Owning many, or all, of the live performances provided by Eagle Rock would be a sound investment, and provide a music library akin to having a set of hardbound classic novels. Before even hearing the product, you will be foremost impressed with the quality of its delivery.
Thinking about the James Brown live performance makes me hypersensitive to any porous perspiration. Sweating is part of James Brown's persona, but I've never seen him, or anyone, sweat like he does during this 1981 performance. After the show begins with the "James Brown" chant, Brown hops out on stage and saturates the entire stage by the end of the first song. This performance consistently shows how showmanship and soul can be one. Whether staring in awe at the immense amount of sweat, enjoying the fleet footwork, or snickering at the choreographed moves of the Jeff Lynne look-alike in the horn section, James Brown's live show is worth viewing many times without even taking into consideration the music. The DVD lacks the bonus material companies often use to fluff interest in their products, but the performance is the most important, and that is recorded well, unless you're accustomed to the modern-day plethora of camera angles.
Theatrics aside, the performance sounds as incredible in the digital age as it did in the analog age. James Brown is surrounded by the finest musicians, which is the only way he performs. You cannot hear a single misplaced note or beat, whether listening to the upbeat funk of "I Got the Feelin'", or a soulful slow jam like "Man's World". Out of a quality stereo system on a nice night, one could easily transport back to this live performance. The set list is only comprised of the finest classics, which is also fitting of such a collectors' edition. Overall, the performance combined with the product creates an overall appeal that makes Live at Montreux 1981 a signature possession for anyone's collection. The further effect of purchasing this James Brown collectable may be a desire to own other live performances in this Eagle Rock collection based on your enjoyment of this one. I, personally, would like to have a pre-junky performance from Shane MacGowan, so that might be my next piece. Until then, let me hear you say "James Brown! James Brown! James Brown!..."
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James Brown - Live at Montreux 1981 DVD
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