Review #54: Star Time, James Brown

Karla Clifton
7 min readMar 16, 2021

#54: Star Time, James Brown

How can I explain what happened next?

Kansas, as I’m sure you know, is a horrible place. Yet it lies somewhere along the route of many long road trips in the United States, a Final Frontier of sorts, only with more cops and cows. In fact, Kansas was at the forefront of my mind when I hatched the idea for this project in the first place.

How, pray tell, will I survive Kansas? I know — I’ll set up a playlist that forces me to listen to a huge variety of music! Perfect, that will keep me engaged.

Shortly before crossing over the Kansas border, Star Time, a James Brown compilation album, came on.

Friends, I was not even totally sure who James Brown was.

This is my story.


Disc 1: Mr. Dynamite

“Please, Please, Please” — I’m about to confess something horrible. Right when this album came out, I immediately was reminded of Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.” That in itself isn’t that shocking, since in many ways, JB is a spiritual predecessor of MJ. However, I sang this Michael Jackson song over the melodies of the first ten James Brown songs on Star Time. It worked over almost every one of them. Eventually, of course, James Brown came to dominate my heart and mind. But I must be honest about where I started from.

“Why Do You Do Me” — My immediate thought upon hearing this one was, Wow, this is the exact same song as the one before.

“Try Me” — For the most part, James Brown sounds like any old fifties rock and roll star in a lot of the songs on this first disc — albeit one with a killer voice and amazing backup singers.

“Tell Me What I Did Wrong” — Just another sleepy shuffle. The way you make me feel! You really turn me on!

“Good Good Lovin’” — This is when James Brown starts getting REALLY fun.

“I’ll Go Crazy”You got to live for yourself/ Yourself and nobody else!

“(Do The) Mashed Potato Part 1” — I was NOT prepared for how hard he screamed when this one started. I also love the mic check at the end of the song.

“Think” — A bop, a jam.

“Baby You’re Right” — His voice is doing some really amazing things on this one.

“Lost Someone” — Oh my GOD, this one was so slow. At this point I was pretty much James Browned out. But that’s okay, I thought, because this was already the twelfth track. Surely there couldn’t be too much left.

“Night Train” — I didn’t mind too much, though, because the tempo was beginning to pick up.

“I’ve Got Money” — I love when backup singers have a call-and-response part.

“It’s A Man’s World” — I FINALLY KNEW WHO JAMES BROWN WAS. This is an amazing song, but I hate the message.

“I Got You (I Feel Good)” — HERE we go, a song I recognized and loved. Right at the end of the album, too. Lucky me!

“Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” — He sure does!

Disc 2: The Hardest Working Man in Show Business

“Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” — I passed into Disc 2 still not realizing what exactly I had signed up for — still with no idea that I was only twenty-four songs into a seventy-one song journey. But imagine my confusion when this song played twice. Oh, I thought, did I accidentally repeat this song somehow? But no — soon, I realized that I was listening to the same song with a slightly different mix. Ah, okay — this was likely a double album. That’s fine. I can handle a double album.

“I Got You (I Feel Good)” — Wait just a damn second.

“Ain’t That A Groove” — An unfamiliar song! Oh thank God, I was worried that I was losing my mind for a minute.

“It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” — And yet, maybe I was. That’s fine, this is a great song, I even like his voice more on this take. Cool cool cool cool cool.

“Don’t Be A Dropout” — Here, we are introduced to James Brown, the Activist. James Brown wasn’t content to be The Hardest Working Man in Show Business — he wanted us to have the secrets to his success. Without an education, he warns, you might as well be dead. Strong words from a hard-working man.

“Get It Together” HIT IT! QUIT IT! Hahaha, James Brown, you animal.

“I Can’t Stand Myself (When You Touch Me), Pt 1” — I really just lost myself in the music at this point. I was singing the words to every song, even though I had never heard them before. What other artist has that kind of magic?

“Licking Stick — Licking Stick” — This song was real?! I was so sure I heard it in a fever dream…

“Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud” — I love the backup singers here.

“There Was A Time” — Around here in the album I became SO lost in the music that I nearly blew by a cop going…well, definitely not the speed limit. Don’t worry, I was fine! I had James Brown protecting me.

“Give It Up or Turnit A Loose” — James Brown writes the same song over and over again; he just performs it with the same level of joy each time.

“I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door, I’ll Get It Myself)” — This one STUCK with me. Just typing out the title of that song made me dance a little.

Disc 3: Soul Brother №1

“Mother Popcorn” — I’ll admit that this one is a bit of a challenge when you’ve been listening to James Brown for well nigh on three hours. This is just riffs to screaming and nonsensical lyrics.

“Funky Drummer” — Here I realized that I’d passed into a third disc but was still listening to James Brown. Do you know that part of a horror movie where the protagonist realizes that they’re locked in the house with the killer?

“Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine” — But despite that, THIS song utterly changed my life. Get up! Get on up! Whenever I’m sad, I put this song on.

“Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Nothing” — I didn’t notice on the road trip how long all these songs were.

“Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved” — The backup singer on this one made a real impression on me, so I looked him up later. His name is Bobby Byrd, and apparently he’s the one who discovered James Brown. He sounds like he’s having a blast here — but it also sounds like James Brown was a bit of a nightmare to work with.

“Hot Pants (She Got To Use What She Got To Get What She Want)” — I just love the title of this one.

“Intro/It’s A New Day So Let A Man Come In And Do The Popcorn” — In this badass live track, an announcer introduces Brown as “the hardest working man in show business” and says triumphantly: “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s STAR TIME!” I couldn’t have been more excited if I had been there myself.

“I Got Ants In My Pants”And I need to daaaance!

“King Heroin” — Once again, James Brown has a serious subject to tackle, and this time he slows it down to a crawl. Heroin, he declares, is bad.

Disc 4: The Godfather of Soul

“Public Enemy #1” — Another anti-heroin song. On my second listen, I went ahead and looked up what JB’s drug consumption looked like, and what I found made me kinda sad. Looks like he had a really strict anti-drug policy (at least for his musicians) throughout all his early career, then descended into, um, P.C.P. addiction. Damn. If you want to get REALLY bummed out, watch this CNN interview from 1988.

“I Got A Bag Of My Own” — What is a “bag” anyway? Is it a vibe? Money? Clothes? Talent?

“Get Up Offa That Thing/Release The Pressure” — OH SHIT. I was fairly sure that I had been through the best of this album by now, but I was pleasantly surprised to find this gem late in his career.

“Unity, Part 1” — Okay, this one is just a blast.

“Speak To Me” by Pink Floyd — This song is NOT by James Brown, but it IS the song that finally let me know that my time with James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, the Hardest Working Man in Showbusiness…was over. I nearly cried. I don’t know if I was sad or relieved.


The runtime for Star Time is 4 hours and 54 minutes. It takes approximately 6–7 hours to drive across Kansas.

I’m not saying I’m some kind of hero, but I did listen to this album twice.

The second time, I listened to the bulk of it with my long-suffering roommate, who became more and more incredulous as the album went on. “Is this the only James Brown album?” she asked.

No. He also has #65, Live at the Apollo, and #439, Sex Machine.

She got angry. “They’re gonna have a five-hour James Brown Greatest Hits album, and they’re not going to include Can’t Stand the Rain by Ann Peebles?”

I’m therefore forced to conclude that Can’t Stand the Rain by Ann Peebles is the 54th greatest album of all time.

But the next time I’m in Kansas, James Brown will ring through my ears, whether I like it or not.

Review #53: Electric Ladyland, Jimi Hendrix

Review #55: The Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd