‘Live at the Apollo’ Classic Album Dissection & Reviews of Neil Young and Kendrick Lamar

Fifty years after it was recorded, Jim and Greg give James Brown’s Live at the Apollo a Classic Album Dissection.

James Brown
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Singer-songwriterTerry Callier never got the acclaim he deserved in the early part of his life, but as Greg explains, his influence was strong. The Chicago native released a Chess Records debut in 1968, and went on to fuse folk with jazz and experimental music. It’s a sound that caught the attention of younger artists like Beth Orton and Devendra Banhart, and you can best hear it on the 1973 track You’re Goin Miss Your Candyman.

Live at the Apollo

Live At the Apollo (1962)

Before he was America’s Godfather of Soul, James Brownwas the king of the South’s segregated chitlin’ circuit. It took Live at the Apollo - an album recorded fifty years ago last month on Brown’s own dime- to catapult him onto the national stage. In honor of its fiftieth, Jim and Greg give Brown’s Live at the Apollo a well-deserved Classic Album Dissection with help from music writer RJ Smith. RJ’s biography of Brown, The One: The Life and Music of James Brown, came out earlier this year. As RJ explains, James Brown was all about the live experience. He knew if radio listeners could just hear his live show, he could be Gary Cooper big. He was right. High-energy numbers like Night Train and Think propelled Brown onto the pop charts and super-charged his career. But as Greg notes, Live at the Apollo wasn’t just a turning point for Brown personally, it was a turning point for music. Suddenly doo-wop and soul was starting to sound...funky.

Psychedelic Pill Neil Young

Psychedelic Pill

It’s been a busy 2012 for Neil Young. Not only has he given us a memoir, Waging Heavy Piece, he’s also given us two albums. This spring we got the antique folk romp Americana. Now we have Psychedelic Pill- an epic three records’ worth of psychedelic guitar from Neil and the band he was born to play with, Crazy Horse. How good a prescription is Psychedelic Pill? Greg’s the first to admit there’s a lot of flab on this record. But standout tracks like Ramada Inn (about an affair gone sour) and Walk Like a Giant (in which Neil reflects on the hippie dream) make this record a worthwhile, if lengthy, listen. Greg says Burn It. As much as it pains him, Neil’s #1 fan Jim DeRogatis has to disagree. Never has he heard worse lyrics or more self-indulgent guitar from Neil. This record is sprawling in a bad way. Jim says Trash It.

Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City Kendrick Lamar

good kid, m.A.A.d city

At 25, Kendrick Lamaris shouldering some pretty heavy expectations for his major label debut, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City. The Compton rapper caught the attention of Dr. Dre and rap tastemakers with his independent debut Section.80. Does Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City live up to all the hype? Jim acknowledges Kendrick’s skill as a lyricist - he says his rhymes are almost novelistic - and he understands he is taking on characters in his songs. However he’s troubled by the gangsta clichés. No amount of self-awareness, Jim says, makes it OK to indulge in 50 Cent-style misogyny. Jim gives Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City a Trash It rating. Greg couldn’t disagree more. He thinks Lamar has yet to meet the rap cliché he couldn’t upend. Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City is wrestling with Compton’s legacy in a way that eludes sound bites and lyrics-quoting. Greg says it’s a Buy It record that requires close listening.

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