The greatest Soul Train performance? | Bleader

The greatest Soul Train performance?


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Though I possess a vague knowledge of Soul Train and Don Cornelius, I had never quite realized the massive impact that both had on soul music, music television, and on soul music, music, and television. My knowledge of Soul Train was largely dependent on clumps of images, which appeared on MTV and VH1 in the 90s, a time when nostalgia for the 70s and its imagery seemed to be at its apex. Thankfully, the volume of writing on Cornelius and his impact, particularly in relation to Chicago, has made me realize just how significant a figure he was.

I've spent the past few days trawling YouTube for clips from Soul Train, and I've been floored by many of the performances from the show's 70s heyday, but one performance in particular stood out from the rest.

Is it any surprise that James Brown takes the prize here? The debate might not over whether or not he has the best Soul Train performance, but which one. For my money, I'll take the clip posted immediately below. The title says it's taken from a 1974 broadcast, though the accuracy of the date is questionable, considering the sometimes dubious authority of YouTube posters. In any case, this video slays. What distinguishes this JB Soul Train appearance is the music, which blares louder and hits harder than almost any other Brown performance I've seen or heard. The guitars in particular—big gooey globules flicked around in scorched whips—are chunky, like the edgy, metallic clusters of six-string voodoo on Miles Davis's On the Corner. Check out the sequence, featuring "Cold Sweat," a "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" that hits and halts as fast as a canister of nitrous, and an explosive rendition of "The Payback." As a bonus, there's also a peppery run-through of The JBs' "Damn Right I am Somebody," with horns crashing into each other like bumper cars.

But hey, I'm no expert. What are some of your favorite Soul Train performances? Answer away in the comments below.

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