James Brown Live at Montreux 1981—Eagle Eye Media

Video: 2
Audio: 4
Extras: 3

James Brown, a.k.a. the Godfather of Soul, is a force of nature. If you’ve never seen his live show back in the day or think that Prince and OutKast are hot stuff, do yourself a big favor and spin the James Brown Live at Montreux 1981 DVD. If the fierce grooves don’t get your mojo working, the sheer spectacle of a sweat-soaked Brown and his 14-piece funk band will. You get a healthy dose of his greatest tunes—“It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” “I Got the Feelin’,” “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” and “Sex Machine”—packed within the disc’s all-too-short 71-minute running time. The jazz/funk workouts never let up, and, while Brown’s vocal prowess may not match the primal rhythm-and-blues sound he had in the 1960s, in 1981, he was still untouchable.

There’s nothing slick about this DVD—the lighting isn’t great, and the 1.33:1 aspect ratio doesn’t help things. But the PCM stereo, DTS, and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks absolutely nail the music’s live energy. The brass section’s sound is super detailed and vivid, and the rhythm section’s heavyweight grooves keep the energy up. My only quibble with the sound is that Brown has a habit of singing off-mike, and, when he does, his vocals are either too low or completely inaudible. DVD extras are nil, but the package also includes a CD of the same show. If the James Brown: Live at Montreux 1981 DVD doesn’t light up your home theater, it’s time for an upgrade.

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