The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

Knock You Out! James Brown’s “Gravity” to Be Expanded by BBR

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It’d be wrong to say that the fine folks at Universal Music Enterprises are doing it to death when it comes to James Brown; there’s been a solid two decades of box sets, compilations and reissues to enjoy, and that list is only going to get longer with the news that Live at The Apollo box set is coming out later this year.

But there is one brief, substantial period of the Godfather of Soul’s career that’s often not as focused on: a brief but bright pop crossover in the mid-’80s on Scotti Bros. Records with a cheesy but fun hit single that inadvertently paved the way for his critical reappraisal. The song was “Living in America,” from the film Rocky IV, and the album was 1986’s Gravity, now due for an expanded reissue from Big Break Records.

By 1985, James Brown had more than his share of ups (some of the greatest funk and soul singles throughout the 1960s and early 1970s) and downs (the expiration of his contract with Polydor in 1981 and subsequent reduction of his touring schedule). He turned in a great performance of the gospel standard “The Old Landmark” for 1980’s The Blues Brothers, and he guested on Afrika Bambaataa’s “Unity” – arguably, one of the first singles to acknowledge the Godfather’s influence on the nascent genre of hip-hop – but things were quiet for awhile, with a few independent releases coming and going.

“Living in America” was an out-of-nowhere opportunity, reportedly requested personally by Rocky IV star/writer/director Sylvester Stallone. The song was performed by Brown himself within the movie, to introduce retired champ Apollo Creed’s exhibition bout against fearsome Soviet boxer Ivan Drago. The song’s writers were Charlie Midnight and Dan Hartman, both well known for their work on soundtrack hits, notably Hartman’s Top 10 hit “I Can Dream About You” for the Streets of Fire soundtrack in 1984. The duo would receive a Grammy Award nomination for Best R&B Song for “America.”

Midnight and Hartman would serve as writer-producers for all of Gravity, enlisting a stunning stable of backing talent, including Brown’s longtime horn player Maceo Parker, lead keyboardist Steve Winwood, guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan and backing vocals from Alison Moyet. Key tracks included Top 40 R&B single “Gravity” and Top 10 R&B hit “How Do You Stop,” later covered by Joni Mitchell and Seal in 1994.

In true BBR form, this new edition includes a heap of bonus tracks, effectively doubling the album to 16 tracks. Remixes of “Living in America,” “Gravity,” “How Do You Stop” and album cut “Goliath” all appear, along with single edits and an instrumental of “America.”

The expanded disc is out in the U.K. May 21. Hit the jump for the full track list!

James Brown, Gravity: Expanded Edition (Big Break Records CDBBR0126 (U.K.), 2012)

  1. Gravity
  2. Let’s Get Personal
  3. How Do You Stop
  4. Turn Me Loose, I’m Dr Feelgood
  5. Living in America
  6. Goliath
  7. Repeat the Beat (Faith)
  8. Return to Me
  9. Living in America (R&B Dance Version)
  10. Gravity (Extended Dance Mix)
  11. How Do You Stop (Special Extended Mix)
  12. Goliath (Message House Mix)
  13. Living in America (Single Version)
  14. Gravity (Single Version)
  15. How Do You Stop (Single Version)
  16. Living in America (Instrumental)

Tracks 1-8 released as Scotti Bros. LP FZ 40380, 1986. Track 5 was previously released on Rocky IV: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Scotti Bros. SZ 40203, 1985)
Tracks 9 and 16 released on Scotti Bros. 12″ 4Z9 05310, 1986
Track 10 released on Scotti Bros. 12″ 4Z9 05943, 1986
Tracks 11-12 released as Scotti Bros. 12″ 4Z9 05990, 1986
Track 13 released on Scotti Bros. single ZS4 05682, 1985. Repressed with cat. # ZS8 69117, 1986.
Track 14 released on Scotti Bros. promo single ZS4 06275, 1986
Track 15 released on Scotti Bros. promo single ZS4 06568, 1986

Written by Mike Duquette

April 24, 2012 at 14:20

Posted in James Brown, News, Reissues

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